News

White House election commission renews request for voter data

Author: Peter Marcus - July 27, 2017 - Updated: July 28, 2017

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Colorado Secretary of State Wayne Williams addresses a rally for National Voter Registration Day on Sept. 22, 2015, in Denver's Civic Center Park. (Photo by Ernest Luning/The Colorado Statesman)Colorado Secretary of State Wayne Williams addresses a rally for National Voter Registration Day on Sept. 22, 2015, in Denver’s Civic Center Park. (Photo by Ernest Luning/The Colorado Statesman)

Colorado’s Republican Secretary of State, Wayne Williams, received a renewed request on Wednesday from the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity for voter data.

Williams’ office said the renewed request came with several changes that had been proposed by his office following an outcry.

The commission had initially put a hold on submitting data until a judge ruled on a lawsuit that’s trying to block the release. Williams had agreed to send the commission voter data that he’s legally allowed to provide to anyone who asks.

Following the initial request from the White House election commission, Williams on July 14 sent a letter outlining Colorado’s processes. He notified the commission that certain information, including date of birth and Social Security numbers, is confidential under Colorado law.

The secretary of state requested two changes, including that publicly available data would be transmitted “in a secure manner,” and that “all data” received by the commission “should be secured,” according to a news release from his office. The commission on Wednesday agreed to Williams’ recommendations.

“The Commission’s adoption of our requested changes with respect to securing the publicly available data represents a significant improvement over the procedures proposed initially,” Williams said in a statement. “As with any request we receive for public information, we must comply with Colorado law.”

The commission, headed by Vice President Mike Pence, its chair, and Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, was created in May by President Trump to examine vulnerabilities in election systems “that could lead to improper voter registrations, improper voting, fraudulent voter registrations, and fraudulent voting.”

Kobach, in the initial letter delivered to state officials on June 28, asked state officials to submit the publicly available information from each state’s voter rolls, including full names and addresses, dates of birth, party affiliation, driver’s license numbers, the last four digits of voters’ Social Security numbers, voting history going back a decade, felony convictions and military and overseas voter status.

The request was met with a storm of criticism from advocacy groups and officials questioning the commission’s motives and voters unhappy their records would be sent to Washington. Williams found himself facing much of the criticism in Colorado, despite the secretary of state promising not to share confidential information, including Social Security numbers.

Thousands of Coloradans withdrew from the voter rolls in the wake of the request, with Democrats withdrawing at a rate much higher than Republicans, highlighting the political nature of the backlash.

Left-leaning groups urged Williams to refuse to comply with the request, though the secretary of state repeatedly stressed that he would only share information available to anyone who asks and pays a nominal fee. Voter records are routinely requested and made available to political parties, campaigns and news outlets.

“It’s my hope that citizens who withdrew their registration will re-register, particularly once they realize that no confidential information will be provided and that the parties and presidential candidates already have the same publicly available information from the 2016 election cycle,” Williams said.

Peter Marcus

Peter Marcus

Peter Marcus is senior statehouse reporter for Colorado Politics. He covers the legislature and previously covered politics, the governor’s office, the legislature and Congress for The Durango Herald. He joined The Herald in 2014 from The Colorado Statesman, a Denver-based political weekly. The Washington Post twice named Marcus one of the nation’s top state-based political and legislative reporters.


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