A Trump commission requested voter data. Here’s what every state is saying.
President Donald Trump is asking for voter names, addresses, party affiliation and voting records from all 50 states, part of an investigation into voter fraud by a commission he launched last month.
But will all states comply with that request?
Officials had strong but mixed reactions to a Wednesday letter from Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, the vice chair of the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity, asking for suggestions to improve election security but also for a range of voter data, including dates of birth and partial social security numbers.
At least 14 states say they won’t comply with Kobach’s request. Many called the request an invasion of privacy and said Trump has yet to provide proof of voter fraud in their states or elsewhere. Some states are still considering the request, while others have said they’ll provide some, but not all, of the data.
The commission requested the data by July. Kobach did not specify in his letter how it would be used.
Trump has claimed without evidence since winning November’s election that it was “rigged,” either by voter impersonation or illegal ballots cast by undocumented immigrants. Trump swept the Electoral College in November’s election, but was nearly 3 million votes shy of Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in the popular vote.
He created the commission to investigate practices “that could lead to improper voter registrations, improper voting, fraudulent voter registrations and fraudulent voting.”
All states are required to keep voter rolls, but the kind of information collected from voters varies by state. Public voter data is available to political parties and organizing groups, usually for a fee.
The request gets more complicated because the responsibility for voter rolls also varies by state. While governors have been vocal about Kobach’s letter, in many states the responsibility to release the data falls to the state elections board or secretary of state. In some cases — as in North Carolina — those leaders don’t agree.
Alabama Secretary of State John Merill said Kobach’s request will now likely be a focus of the National Association of Secretaries of State summer conference in Indianapolis next week.
White House spokesperson Sarah Huckabee Sanders defended the commission’s request Friday, saying it sought only publicly-available data. She called the refusal from some states to comply “a political stunt.”
Since Kobach’s letter, the Electronic Privacy Information Center has filed a lawsuit against the election commission, saying the request for voter data is “a severe invasion of Americans’ rights.”
Kobach released a statement July 5 saying 20 states have agreed to provide publicly available voter information to the commission.
But in a declaration that Kobach filed in federal district court in D.C he wrote that “to my knowledge, as of July 5, 2017, no Secretary of State had yet provided to the Commission any of the information requested in my letter.”
Here’s a look at where states stand on the issue:
Alabama: On the fence
Secretary of State John Merrill told PBS NewsHour that he has received the letter from Kobach and “we certainly want to be supportive” of the effort to ensure election integrity. In a statement, he said he “is committed to doing everything in his power to ensure that the integrity and the security of the elections process is secure.”
Merill, however, said in the statement that his office “will comply with the request if we are convinced that the overall effort will produce the necessary results to accomplish the commission’s stated goal without compromising the integrity of the voter rolls and the elections process in Alabama.”
Among the questions that have to be answered for him: how many states will comply with the request for information.
“If you have it narrowed down” to only a few states, “that’s not very helpful nationwide,” Merrill told the NewsHour.
Alaska: Will provide what’s publicly available
Alaska will comply with a portion of the commission’s request by releasing publicly available information like voters’ names, mailing addresses and party affiliations, but will not hand over data that is confidential under state law, such as the last four digits of voters’ Social Security numbers and birth dates, according to Josie Bahnke, Alaska’s elections director.
Alaska Lt. Gov. Byron Mallott posted online a list of what is public and private information under state law.
Arizona: Will provide what’s publicly available
The state “will not provide the personal identifying information” of its voters to the commission, Arizona Secretary of State Michele Reagan said in a statement on her office’s website. That information includes social security numbers, date of birth and mother’s maiden names.
“We will only make available the same redacted information that is available to the general public through a public records request,” Reagan said.
Arkansas: On the fence
Gov. Asa Hutchinson says he is “hesitant” to provide voter data.
California: Will not comply
Secretary of State Alex Padilla said in a statement he would not hand over the state’s voting data.
“California’s participation would only serve to legitimize the false and already debunked claims of massive voter fraud made by the President, the Vice President, and Mr. Kobach,” he wrote. “The President’s Commission is a waste of taxpayer money and a distraction from the real threats to the integrity of our elections today: aging voting systems and documented Russian interference in our elections.”
Colorado: Will provide what’s publicly available
Colorado Secretary of State Wayne Williams said in a statement he will provide public voter data, but withhold information that is confidential.
Connecticut: Will not comply
Secretary of State Denise Merrill originally said in a statement that Connecticut will share publicly-available information with the commission “in the spirit of transparency.”
“In the same spirit of transparency, we will request that the Commission share any memos, meeting minutes or additional information as state officials have not been told precisely what the Commission is looking for,” she added.
But on Monday, she tweeted a letter she sent to Kobach, saying that providing voter data “is not in the best interest of Connecticut residents.”
— Denise Merrill (@SOTSMerrill) July 3, 2017
Delaware: Will not comply
Delaware Secretary of State Jeff Bullock says his state will not provide voter data.
— DE Dept. of State (@DEDeptState) July 3, 2017
“Releasing this information to the White House would not serve the mission of safeguarding the fairness and integrity of elections in Delaware and would not be in the best interests of Delaware voters,” State Election Commissioner Elaine Manlove said in a statement.
Florida: Reviewing request
Georgia: Will provide what’s publicly available
Hawaii:Has not formally received request
According to Nedielyn Bueno of the state’s Office of Elections, Hawaii has not yet received Kobach’s letter and would wait to review it to make a decision. According to Hawaii state law, only a voter’s name, district precinct and voter status is public. No other personal information is released publicly, Bueno told NewsHour.
Idaho: Reviewing request
Illinois: Has not formally received request
Indiana: Will provide what’s publicly available
Indiana Secretary of State Connie Lawson said in a statement she will provide information to the commission that is publicly available, including voters’ names, addresses and congressional districts. “Indiana law doesn’t permit the Secretary of State to provide personal information requested by Secretary Kobach,” Lawson said.
My statement on the CEI's request for voter information: pic.twitter.com/46vECNBtkf
— Connie Lawson (@SecretaryLawson) June 30, 2017
Iowa: Will provide what’s publicly available
Iowa will comply with some of the commission’s requests for voter data. But Iowa Secretary of State Paul Pate said his office would only give out information on voter registration after a formal request was made, and would not supply Social Security numbers “as forbidden under Iowa Code.”
Kansas: Will provide what’s publicly available
— Bryan Lowry (@BryanLowry3) June 30, 2017
Kentucky: Will not comply
Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes said she did not intend to release voter data.
"I do not intend to release Kentuckians' sensitive personal data to the fed. gov't." — Sec. Grimes
Statement on Pres. Commission request: pic.twitter.com/9Js05x99eF
— Alison L. Grimes (@KySecofState) June 30, 2017
She told MSNBC that “there’s not enough bourbon here in Kentucky to make this request seem sensible.”
KY Sec. of State Alison Grimes on the Election Commission: "There's not enough bourbon here in Kentucky to make this request seem sensible." pic.twitter.com/11nyfYAFcV
— Kyle Griffin (@kylegriffin1) July 1, 2017
Louisiana: Reviewing request
Our staff are reviewing to determine our response. Our priority will always be to safeguard voters' protected, personal information.
— La. Sec. of State (@Louisiana_sos) June 30, 2017
Maine: Will provide what’s publicly available
Maine’s Secretary of State Matt Dunlap will comply with portions of the commission’s request that are publicly available under state law, a spokesperson told the NewsHour Weekend on Saturday.
“Maine law allows the release of the voter’s name, year of birth, residence address, mailing address, electoral districts, voter status,” Dunlap said in a statement online.
Maryland: Reviewing request
Massachusetts: Will not comply
Michigan: Will review when request is received
Minnesota: Will not comply
“I will not hand over Minnesota voters’ sensitive personal information to the commission,” Secretary of State Steve Simon said in a statement. “As I’ve said before, I have serious doubts about the commission’s credibility and trustworthiness.”
Mississippi: Will not comply
Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann said the commission can “go jump in the gulf of Mexico.”
Missouri: Will provide what’s publicly available
Montana: Has not received letter, but says it “will not release any personal or confidential information”
Nebraska: No statement available
Secretary of State John Gale has not made a statement on Kobach’s request.
On Wednesday, six senators urged Gale not to provide voter data.
New Hampshire: Will comply
New Jersey: Reviewing request
New Mexico: Will not comply
“I will not release any other voter information like names, addresses or voting history unless and until I am convinced the information will not be used for nefarious or
unlawful purposes, and only if I am provided a clear plan for how it will be secured. As New Mexico’s Chief Election Official, I will continue to ensure the integrity of our elections while
protecting the voting rights and personal privacy of our voters,” Toulouse Oliver said in a statement.
— NM Sec of State (@NMSecOfState) July 5, 2017
New York: Will not comply
NY refuses to perpetuate the myth voter fraud played a role in our election. We will not comply with this request.https://t.co/eQC6ORV0v1
— Andrew Cuomo (@NYGovCuomo) June 30, 2017
North Carolina: Will provide what’s publicly available
Gov. Roy Cooper tweeted that he told the North Carolina State Board of Elections that the state should not comply with the election integrity commission’s request.
Governor Cooper released the following comment after a new federal government commission requested that states turnover voter information: pic.twitter.com/DaCbEXUEjn
— Governor Roy Cooper (@NC_Governor) June 30, 2017
But the state’s board of elections said in a separate statement it would provide “publicly available data as already required by state law”: name, address, political affiliation, demographic data and a list of past elections in which the voter has participated.
— NCSBE (@NCSBE) June 30, 2017
North Dakota: No statement available
Oklahoma: Will provide what’s publicly available
Oregon: Will provide what’s publicly available
Oregon is willing to tender a list of voters to the commission for $500, the same fee applied to all requests for the information, but would not hand over voters’ Social Security numbers or number driver’s’ license numbers as requested, according to Oregon Secretary of State Dennis Richardson, who said in a letter to the commission that he is legally prohibited from doing so.
Richardson also noted in the letter that there is scant evidence of voter fraud in Oregon.
“I do not believe the federal government should be involved in dictating how states conduct their elections,” Richardson wrote.
Pennsylvania: Will not comply
Gov. Tom Wolff tweeted that Pennsylvania “will not participate in this systematic effort to suppress the vote.”
You can add PA to that list. We will not participate in this systematic effort to suppress the vote. https://t.co/EHnY2NJI5R
— Governor Tom Wolf (@GovernorTomWolf) June 30, 2017
Rhode Island: Will provide what’s publicly available
Rhode Island Secretary of State Nellie M. Gorbea said she will give the commission data that is already publicly available. “I will not release social security information or any information that was requested by Secretary Kobach regarding felony status, military status, or overseas citizen information,” she said in a statement.
South Carolina: Will review letter once it’s received
South Dakota: Will not comply
Tennessee: Will not comply
In a statement, Tennessee Secretary of State Tre Hargett said “Tennessee state law does not allow my office to release the voter information requested to the federal commission”
My statement regarding the request for Tennessee voter information: pic.twitter.com/999Y7QUjfM
— Tre Hargett (@SecTreHargett) June 30, 2017
Texas: Will comply
— Jim Malewitz (@Jmalewitz) June 30, 2017
Utah: Will provide what’s publicly available
Vermont: Will provide what’s publicly available
"I will not release any more information about Vermont voters than is available to any citizen requesting our voter file."
— VT Sec. of State (@VermontSOS) June 30, 2017
Virginia: Will not comply
Gov. Terry McAuliffe said in a statement he has “no intention of honoring this request.”
— Terry McAuliffe (@GovernorVA) June 29, 2017
Washington: Will provide what’s publicly available
“As with any request for public records, we are required to comply pursuant to state law regardless of who is making the request,” said Washington Secretary of State Kim Wyman in a statement.
We are required by law to provide public records upon request. Other requests from fed elections commission will be considered thoughtfully.
— Secretary of State (@secstatewa) June 30, 2017
West Virginia: Will review request once it’s received
Wyoming: Will not comply
“I’m going to decline to provide any Wyoming voter information,” Ed Murray, the secretary of state, told the Star-Tribune. “It’s not sitting well with me.”
PBS NewsHour’s Dan Cooney, Pamela Kirkland and Jessica Yarvin, and PBS NewsHour Weekend’s Michael D. Regan, reported for this story.