Following news that a presidential task force set up by Donald Trump requested the personal information on all voters in Colorado, 3,394 of them across the state cancelled their voter registration.
The numbers are the first statewide tally since June 29, when news broke about a letter, signed by Kris Kobach, vice chair of Trump’s Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity, asking Colorado Republican Secretary of State Wayne Williams for information on state voters.
“It’s my hope that folks who withdrew their registration will reregister, 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,” said Williams in a statement about the cancellation figures, which his office released July 13.
In Colorado, a voter’s name, address, birth year and party affiliation, along with when and where they voted, is a public record that can be obtained from the Secretary of State’s office by anyone who asks.
In Colorado, registering to vote is very easy and can be done on the same day as an election.
Following news that the Kobach commission asked Colorado for a data dump of state voter info, anecdotal reports have come in from county elections officials around the state who said voters were un-registering because they fear their personal information ending up in the hands of an administration they don’t trust.
Others have turned to a different tactic: becoming what is called a “confidential voter” by filling out an in-person form and affidavit at their local county election office saying they fear for their safety or fear criminal harassment if their personal information isn’t kept secret.
“I know that this list is being requested by someone who has a history of promoting violence against any of his opponents,” one such voter, Bob Reinhart, a 64-year-old retiree in Lakewood, told The Colorado Independent, explaining why he chose to become a confidential voter last week. “I assume that they’ll be cross-referencing this list with many other lists and deciding who’s friend and who’s foe,” he added.
Between June 29 and July 13, 182 voters in Colorado chose to become confidential voters, according to numbers from the Secretary of State.
Williams planned to send a data file to the feds by their July 14 deadline. But that hit a snag when a privacy group filed a court challenge to the commission. On July 10, the commission told Williams to hold off on sending anything until a judge ruled on a temporary restraining order in the case.
As of now, Colorado is in limbo about when the data will— if ever— go to the Trump task force.
Trump set up his commission after he claimed, without evidence, that millions of people voted illegally in the 2016 presidential election that he won.
The task force is headed by Vice President Mike Pence, though it’s frontman has been 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-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, like the ones who have shucked off their franchise in Colorado.
The Secretary of State’s office points out that those who withdrew their registration in recent weeks make up less than one tenth of 1 percent of the state’s 3.7 million voters.