The vice chair of President Trump’s commission on election integrity has asked secretaries of state in all 50 states for detailed information about every registered voter, prompting many states to refuse to cooperate and top Democrats to accuse him of trying to suppress the vote.

Maine will provide some of the voter data requested, but only the parts that are identified as publicly available under a Maine statute Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap – one of several Democrats who serve on the commission – told the Portland Press Herald Friday.

“Bottom line is we follow the laws. We have to follow the law,” Dunlap said. Several states, however, have refused to provide any of the requested information.

The commission’s vice chair, Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, wrote to each state Wednesday, requesting the secretaries of state provide him all publicly available voter information including “the full first and last names of all registrants, middle names or initials if available, addresses, dates of birth, political party (if recorded in your state), last four digits of social security number, if available, voter history (elections voted in) from 2006 onward, active/inactive status, canceled status, information regarding any felony convictions, information regarding voter registration in another state, information regarding military status, and overseas citizen information.”

Dunlap said that in accordance with state law, Maine will provide each voters’ name, address, year of birth, and voter status, but not their party affiliation, voter history, social security numbers, or specific date of birth.

More than a dozen other states have said that, like Maine, they will make some public voter roll information available, but not voter history, Social Security numbers or party affiliation.

OTHER STATES BLAST COMMISSION’S REQUEST

But other secretaries of state have taken a far harder line – including those from Massachusetts, New York, North Carolina and Virginia – saying the effort is an attempt at voter suppression.

Kentucky Secretary of State Allison Grimes was particularly withering. “Kentucky will not aid a commission that is at best a waste of taxpayer money and at worst an attempt to legitimize voter suppression efforts across the country,” she said.

California Secretary of State Alex Padilla also spurned the request. ” I will not provide sensitive voter information to a commission that has already inaccurately passed judgment that millions of Californians voted illegally,” he said in a written statement. “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.”

Unlike Dunlap, Grimes and Padilla are both members of a commission set up by the Democratic National Committee to counter Trump’s voter fraud claims. The head of that committee, former Missouri secretary of state Jason Kander, said in a statement that Kobach’s letter was “very concerning.”

“I certainly don’t trust the Trump Administration with that information, and people across the country should be outraged,” Kander added.

At least one Republican secretary of state also rejected Kobach’s letter in no uncertain terms.

“They can go jump in the Gulf of Mexico and Mississippi is a great state to launch from,” Mississippi Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann said in a statement “Mississippi residents should celebrate Independence Day and our state’s right to protect the privacy of our citizens by conducting our own electoral processes.”

Even Kobach, who chairs the commission and sent the letter, said late Friday afternoon that he would not be providing the last four digits of Kansas voters’ Social Security numbers to the commission – information he requested from other states – because state law prohibits it.

DUNLAP GIVING COMMISSION BENEFIT OF THE DOUBT

Dunlap said he was giving the commission the benefit of the doubt, but wouldn’t participate in any voter suppression effort. “I am approaching this with a very open mind and will give it a chance,” he said. “If it takes a turn to run counter to the facts and looks for what’s not there, I will be in an exceptional position to stand on the street corner with my bullhorn.”

“I won’t participate in anything that would make it hard for a qualified Maine voter to vote,” he added.

Dunlap also said that while he wanted the process to go forward, he was doubtful that the commission would find widespread voter fraud. “You might find 200 people in the country who have voted in more than one jurisdiction, at the most. Not 3 million,” he said.

Maine Democratic Party chair Phil Bartlett, however, issued a written statement that was at odds with Dunlap’s position. “This so-called ‘electoral integrity commission’ is laying the groundwork for voter suppression, plain and simple,” Bartlett wrote. “Secretaries of State around the country are rightly refusing to comply with Pence and Kobach’s blatant assault on voting rights, and I urge our Maine Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap to do the same.”

The ACLU of Maine also issued a statement calling on Dunlap to not comply with the letter, noting that Kobach has not said what the commission intends to do with the information and that Kobach, as Kansas Secretary of State, has been sued by the ACLU over voting laws in his state.

“Maine law protects much of the information being sought by Secretary Kobach,” said Alison Beyea, executive director of the ACLU of Maine, in the statement. “Secretary Dunlap should join the growing chorus of state officials who are stating unequivocally that they will not comply with the request. We are counting on the Secretary to do everything in his power to protect the privacy of Mainers and the integrity of our democracy.”

The executive director of the Maine Republican Party, Jason Savage, however, said the issue was being blown out of proportion. “From what I can see what they are requesting is information that’s already public, so if the goal of the commission is to double check the integrity of elections and be sure that there are no problems with voter fraud, I don’t see any problem with that information being available,” Savage said. “Certainly we should never stand for voter suppression, but if checking voter rolls is out of bounds then this country has serious problems.”

NO EVIDENCE OF CONSEQUENTIAL VOTER FRAUD

Trump has claimed – without evidence – that “serious voter fraud” involving millions of illegal voters deprived him of a popular vote victory last November. He created the commission via a May 11 executive order, tasking it with finding evidence to support his claims. It is chaired by Vice President Mike Pence.

A 2011 voter fraud probe in Maine by Republican Secretary of State Charlie Summers found just one instance of fraud. Nationally, numerous voter fraud investigations have concluded the problem is vanishingly small, with one study by Loyola Law School, Los Angeles professor Justin Levitt finding just 31 credible allegations of identity fraud in all primary, general, special and municipal elections between 2000 and 2014, despite over a billion votes being cast.

Kobach, who is running for governor of Kansas, told the Kansas City Star that the data he had requested would be used to cross-reference with federal databases to determine how many dead and non-citizens were registered in each state and how many were registered in two locations simultaneously. “The idea is to have the best data possible,” Kobach said. “The purpose of the commission is to quantify different forms of voter fraud and registration fraud and offer solutions. And so you have to have this data in order to do any meaningful research.”

On June 23, a federal judge ordered Koback to pay a $1,000 fine for deceiving the court about documents in his possession. The documents – sought by the ACLU as part of a lawsuit – relate to his efforts to change federal voting laws regarding the information states require to determine voting eligibility.

Last week Dunlap and another Democratic member of the commission, Secretary of State Will Gardner of New Hampshire, said they wanted the commission, which has yet to meet, to also probe Russian attempts to infiltrate state election systems.

Dunlap said the commissioners had their first organizational phone call Wednesday, at which he and others reiterated wanting to include the Russia issue in the commission’s first meeting July 11 in Washington. He said the full slate of commissioners had still not been finalized, although about 10 took part in the call.

During the phone conference, Dunlap said Kobach showed interest in voters who were registered in two states at once.

“That’s not against the law, by the way,” Dunlap said. “Actually voting in two states in the same election is.”

Colin Woodard can be contacted at:

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