AUGUSTA –– Maine Secretary of State Matt Dunlap said Monday that he is unlikely to release any state voter registration data to the federal voter fraud commission to which he was appointed by President Trump.

Dunlap said he will reject a second request for the data from the commission’s vice chairman, Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, who promised last week that the data would be held in confidence at the federal level.

But Dunlap said he is uncertain that the federal Freedom of Information Act would allow the data to be protected from disclosure once it is in the federal government’s hands. He said he wants the commission, to which he was appointed in May, to first set goals for what it hopes to achieve as it investigates Trump’s claims of widespread voter fraud.

The secretary of state also said he wants the commission to figure out how it intends to protect voters’ privacy rights before he hands over any statewide voter data.

Kobach has asked states to provide any voter data that is allowed to be released under state laws.

In Maine’s case, that would include a voter’s name, address, year of birth, party affiliation and whether or not they participated in the last two elections.

Dunlap said he is drafting a formal response to Kobach.

“But I think it is safe to say I’m probably not going to release anything until we get a better idea of the confidentiality piece and what the commission’s goal is going to be exactly,” Dunlap said on Monday.

One of four Democrats who serve on the president’s 12-member advisory commission, Dunlap said his office has been inundated with phone calls and emails from voters urging him to protect their privacy.

In June, Kobach requested the data for voters in all 50 states but was rebuffed by 44 of them, some because election officials said fulfilling the request would violate state law, others because they distrusted the motives of the commission, which Trump created by executive order to substantiate his evidence-free claim that he would have won the popular vote if millions of fraudulent ballots had not been cast. Twenty-one states and the District of Columbia declined to cooperate altogether. Dunlap initially said he would partially comply with the request, then later changed his position after consultations with Maine Attorney General Janet Mills, also a Democrat.

Kobach’s new request last week follows a ruling by the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia denying a request by a privacy advocacy group for a temporary restraining order to prevent the commission from receiving the voter information, one of several legal actions filed against it.

Dunlap said Monday he wanted to respond to Kobach’s second request, “sooner rather than later,” in part because the Legislature was set to reconvene this week and lawmakers were going to want to know what his decision was.

Dunlap said he was leery of releasing Maine’s voter data to the federal government, in part, because he didn’t believe the Freedom of Information Act would allow the data to be protected.

Others in Maine have also said the issue of voter fraud has been largely debunked and is mostly a distraction.

“There is no evidence of rampant voter fraud – especially impersonation fraud,” Stephanie Philbrick, a member of the League of Women Voters of Maine, wrote in a league newsletter earlier this year.

“The Brennan Center for Justice (at the New York University School of Law) found that the incident rate for this type of fraud was between 0.00004 and 0.00009 percent,” Philbrick wrote. “Most of these were clerical errors or other mistakes. They calculate that you’re more likely to be struck by lightning than to impersonate someone else at the polls. Currently, there are no studies and no court cases that report large instances of voter fraud. This is a nonexistent problem and is pulling our attention away from other things happening at the state and federal level.”

Scott Thistle can be contacted at 791-6330 or at:

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