Voter-Fraud Commission May Have Broken Law
Letter to states asking for voter data apparently didn't go through proper channels
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Jul 6, 2017 9:03 AM CDT
In this May 17, 2017, file photo, Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach talks with a reporter in his office in Topeka, Kan.   (AP Photo/Orlin Wagner, File)

(Newser) – President Trump has long contended that "millions" of illegal voters marred the November election, despite no evidence to support that belief, and the commission he's approved to shake out voter fraud has been hitting some roadblocks. The latest obstacle: the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity may have broken the law in its request for nationwide voter data, the Hill reports. The commission's letter sent to all 50 states and DC apparently didn't go through the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, required of all federal agencies making requests for public information. More on that and related stories:

  • Not following the OIRA process would be a violation of the Paperwork Reduction Act, though some say the commission isn't technically an agency and doesn't fall under the law's purview. Others disagree. "I think it shows a carelessness in their desire to come in and … do what they want and to do so with a disregard for the rules," Rutgers University professor Stuart Shapiro says.

  • So far, 44 states and the District of Columbia (the Nation counts 45 states) have said they can't (or won't) turn over certain portions of the requested info, with some saying they won't provide any, per CNN and other sources.
  • The Washington Post dives into why this mass rebuff is happening as states figure out what they can legally make available. The story notes that "partial data could make it all largely worthless or misleading" in trying to put together a "national picture."
  • Kris Kobach, the Kansas secretary of state who's the vice chair of the commission, put out an official White House statement Wednesday blasting the "fake news" that 44 states have "refused" to hand over voter info. Per Kobach's numbers, 20 states "have agreed to provide the publicly available information requested by the Commission," with another 16 mulling what data they're legally allowed to release—meaning just 14 states and DC have outright said no to the commission. Kobach doesn't categorize specific states in his remarks.
  • One of commission member thinks the backlash coming to this request for voters' personal info, which includes party affiliations and partial Social Security numbers, should have been obvious. "The fullness of experience being what it is, we should have predicted it," Maine Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap tells Mic.
  • The Nation, which counts the Trump administration's initiative as a major move toward "voter suppression," says the mission is "backfiring badly," with "strong opposition" from GOP secretaries of state in a number of red states and balking from members of the commission itself. "The outpouring of bipartisan opposition shows why Trump's sham election commission should be disbanded before it does any more damage," writes Ari Berman.
  • Trump tweeted Saturday that "numerous states are refusing" to offer up information to the "very distinguished VOTER FRAUD PANEL. What are they trying to hide?"

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