President Donald Trump’s election integrity commission won’t have access to all of the information it would like because of state laws that map out what is and what is not publicly available — triggering a national conversation on the privacy of voters’ information. At the heart of the issue is a letter sent last week by Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach in his capacity as vice chairman of the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity to all 50 states and the District of Columbia. In that letter, Kobach asked for all “publicly available” data, but the long list of pieces of information sought, including the last the four digits of Social Security numbers, included several elements that very few states, if any, say they can legally comply with.
The letter said the commission is seeking to collect feedback from the states that can be used in its work studying the US election system’s integrity. But a request for certain pieces of voter information — especially the last four digits of Social Security numbers, military status, possible felony convictions and dates of birth — raised the concern of states, privacy experts and cybersecurity professionals.
The federal government and Kobach say the letter clearly acknowledges that states are governed by their own laws in what they can provide, reiterating that fact in a court filing Wednesday against a lawsuit from a privacy group seeking to block the request.