President Donald Trump’s special voter fraud commission isn’t off to a great start.
Trump won more than enough Electoral College votes to secure a victory last November, but he trailed Hillary Clinton by about 2.8 million in the popular vote. A few weeks after the election, Trump tweeted he would have won that tally, too, if not for the millions of illegal voters.
Skeptics asked for proof, and Trump resolved to defend his claim that between three million and five million people voted illegally last year. On May 11, Trump established the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity, tasked with reviewing state election processes and weeding out fraudulent votes. But the Trump administration found out this week few states are ready to cooperate.
Vice President Mike Pence oversees the commission, and Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach serves as the group’s vice chairman. Last week, Kobach sent a letter to all 50 states requesting their voter data. He asked for registrants’ full names, addresses, dates of birth, political affiliations, the last four digits of their Social Security numbers, their voting histories since 2006, details on any criminal charges, information regarding voter registration in other states, their military status and overseas citizenship information.
As of Wednesday, not a single state had agreed to fully adhere to the request. Some states such as Oklahoma that voted overwhelmingly in favor of Trump wanted to indulge the commission but still stopped short of turning over Social Security digits. CNN reported 44 out of 50 states will not comply with at least part of the request, and six states are still deciding next steps.
Officials in at least 10 states and Washington, D.C., said they would not comply at all with the inquiry.
Many Democrats criticized the commission as an attempt to suppress voters. But even deep red states don’t like the idea of a federal commission sticking its nose into their voting systems.
Mississippi Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann, a Republican, said in a statement on June 30 that he had not received a copy of the letter yet, but he knows what his reply would be: “They can go jump in the Gulf of Mexico, and Mississippi is a great state to launch from,” he wrote. “Mississippi residents should celebrate Independence Day and our state’s right to protect the privacy of our citizens by conducting our own electoral processes.”
Louisiana Secretary of State Tom Schedler, also a Republican, made a similar statement but added he thinks the commission is a political ploy.
“My response to the commission is, you’re not going to play politics with Louisiana’s voter data,” Schedler said.
Each state has its own laws regarding the release of voter information. Commission members knew it would be a stretch to get all they requested, but the widespread backlash surprised them.
Trump weighed in July 1 with a tweet asking what noncompliant states were trying to hide.
This week, the Electronic Privacy Information Center sued the commission in federal district court in Washington, D.C. The complaint claims the commission’s demand for detailed voter histories violates the constitutional right to privacy. It also argues the request is reckless since it directs state election officials to send voter records to an unsecure website, which could lead to identity theft.
The letter gave states about two weeks to provide the voting data and any evidence of fraud and election-related crimes in their states. It also asked for suggestions on improving election security.
But with every state refusing to comply in full and others outright ignoring the request, the commission will hardly have comprehensive data to review. New Hampshire Secretary of State Bill Gardner, a Democratic member of the commission, said the group would work with what it has and reassess next steps July 19.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Evan Wilt writes for WORLD News Service, a division of WORLD Magazine, worldmag.com, based in Asheville. Used with permission.)