That’s the latest from a commission set up by President Donald Trump that has asked each state, including Colorado, for data on its voters.
The information was due from Colorado by July 14, and the state’s Republican secretary of state, Wayne Williams, planned to send it on that date. Now, the secretary of state doesn’t know when the data is due, which has implications for voters who might have cancelled their registration with plans to sign back up after the 14th.
Because of a court challenge from the Electronic Privacy Information Center, a public interest group that focuses on privacy and civil liberties, Trump’s commission on July 10 asked states to wait.
The privacy group, also known as EPIC, filed a court action asking a federal judge to temporarily stop the voter-fraud panel from collecting information from states because the group says the panel is violating the 2002 federal E-Government Act. EPIC says Trump’s commission didn’t do a required impact statement about privacy and hasn’t proven it can safely secure the information of voters.
EPIC asked for what is called in legal terms a temporary restraining order, or a TRO.
“Until the Judge rules on the TRO, we request that you hold on submitting any data,” wrote Andrew Kossack on behalf of Trump’s Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity. “We will follow up with you with further instructions once the Judge issues her ruling.”
Williams’s office received the information today, his spokesperson said.
Trump set up his commission after he said, without evidence, that millions of people voted illegally in the 2016 presidential election that he won. In-person voter fraud is very rare in the United States, and nonpartisan voting rights groups have blasted the commission as a solution in search of a problem— or worse.
“There is no justification for this giant fishing expedition,” said Chris Carson, president of The League of Women Voters. “The Commission itself is a distraction from the real issue of voter suppression, and that efforts to ‘investigate voter fraud’ threaten our most fundamental voting rights.”
Others have worried the commission’s very existence has already disenfranchised voters. In Colorado, hundreds of voters have cancelled their registration, many telling their local election officials they don’t want their personal information heading into the hands of an administration they don’t trust.
Voters in Colorado have also turned to other means to keep their information from the federal database: Going confidential.
This latest news about a delay in the data dump has practical implications for voters who cancelled their registration with plans to-reregister after July 14 when Colorado was supposed to ship off its data to the feds. As of now, the secretary of state’s office doesn’t know when it will send the information.
“They have withdrawn their request for now so there’s no reason for us to send them the data,” says Williams’ spokeswoman Lynn Bartels. If the judge grants EPIC a temporary restraining order, then who knows if the data will ever be sent?
Trump’s voter fraud task force is headed by Vice President Mike Pence and is co-chaired by Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach who, according to The Kansas City Star, “has championed some of the strictest voting laws in the country during his tenure as secretary of state.” Recently “a federal judge fined him $1,000 for making ‘patently misleading representations’ about documents he took to a November meeting with Trump that relate to federal voting law as part of an ongoing voting rights case.”
In Colorado, Williams has said he will give the Kobach commission what is publicly available under the law, which is the name of each voter, their address, birth year, party affiliation, and when and where they have voted. Williams has not criticized the commission or its aims like other Republican and Democratic elections officials have. He said he welcomes a federal panel asking input from the states, in reference to a set of questions the commission also wanted state election officials to answer. Those questions included what better federal policies the government should adopt when it comes to administering elections, and what kind of evidence there is of voter fraud in the states.
Williams told The Colorado Independent he would recommend more states be involved in a state information-sharing organization called the Electronic Registration Information Center, or ERIC, like Colorado is.
He said he also plans to mention recent petition fraud uncovered last year and also the voter fraud charges against former Colorado Republican Party Chairman Steven Curtis who was accused in March of forging his wife’s ballot. He also mentioned “some instances before Colorado used the ERIC and Social Security death indexes where some voters who had passed away voted.” (It should be noted that dead voters can’t actually vote.) He also said he knows of an instance of someone pleading guilty to voting in Kansas and Colorado.
Asked during a news conference last week about concerns that the commission might have nefarious intentions, Williams said such worries are not related to Colorado’s obligation to respond under the law. He says he knows “a number of people” on the commission, both Republicans and Democrats.
“I believe that there is going to be an effort to look at the breadth of the challenges we face in the election area,” Williams said. “Having said that, are there some on the commission who have a particular thing that they are more concerned about than others? I suspect that’s probably true.”
Photo by thecrazyfilmgirl for Creative Commons on Flickr.