The reviews of President Trump’s new commission on election integrity are rolling in, and they’re not good. “Disingenuous.” “Repugnant.” “At best a waste of taxpayer money.” “A tool to commit large-scale voter suppression.” State officials across the country responded to the commission’s slapdash request last week for detailed voter data in the manner previously reserved for emailed pleas from a Nigerian prince. Delete, said secretaries of state in Kentucky, Minnesota, Tennessee, California — more than 20 states refused to comply, red and blue and every hue in between. “They can go jump in the Gulf of Mexico,” Mississippi’s secretary of state, Delbert Hosemann, a Republican, responded. What triggered the bipartisan backlash? A letter from the commission — whose ostensible goal is to restore Americans’ confidence in their elections — asked states to turn over by July 14 all publicly available information about their voters, including names, addresses, dates of birth, political party and voting history, criminal record, military status and the last four digits of their Social Security number.
Some of this information, like Social Security numbers, isn’t public at all. But even when it is, many states reasonably restrict who can have it and for what reasons. Such restrictions wouldn’t apply once the data is in the commission’s hands, creating major threats to privacy and a tempting targetfor hackers.
“It is wildly irresponsible for a federal entity to ask for all of this information without first discussing how it will be used and whether collecting it for those purposes is a good idea,” said Justin Levitt, a professor at Loyola Law School, who has studied the incidence of voting fraud in depth and found virtually none.