Ten states have said they won’t give any voter data to a presidential voter-fraud commission appointed by the White House, but much of the information that’s been requested is public data that candidates and campaigns routinely request and get from state and county election offices — leading to a lot of head scratching and some interesting theories about what’s really going on.
“I don’t know why there is even a controversy here because all of the information is public,” Michael Dawidziak of Strategic Planning Systems Inc. told LifeZette.
Strategic Planning Systems is a list vending service based in New York. The company’s business is to acquire official voter lists from counties, towns and sometimes states, and then to “clean” them and put them into a format that a candidate or campaign can easily use to mail or call voters.
Dawidziak’s company has sold lists to campaigns in all 50 states and four presidential campaigns. All it takes to get voter lists from the town or county, Dawidziak says, is a simple letter citing the Freedom of Information Act and specifying what information he is seeking, for what congressional district, or what state legislative district, for example. He gets names, addresses, voter ID numbers, party affiliation (for states that have it), registration date, birth date, active/inactive status and voting history … and more in some states.
The Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity, chaired by Vice President Mike Pence, is asking for similar information.
In a letter sent to the states last week, the vice chair of the commission, Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, asked for “publicly available voter roll data” and added that he was requesting the following information, “if publicly available under the laws of your state”:
- First, last and middle names, and addresses
- Dates of birth
- Party affiliation (if kept)
- Last four digits of the Social Security number
- Voter history 2006-present
- Active/inactive/canceled status
- Information on felony convictions, voters registered in another state, military status and overseas status.
The only information on the list that is not routinely provided to candidates, campaigns and others who request it is the last four digits of the Social Security number and information on felony convictions, whether voters were found to have been registered in another state, and military or overseas status.
Ten states are flat-out refusing to turn over the information: California, New York, Kentucky, Virginia, Massachusetts, Mississippi, Minnesota, Tennessee, Maryland and Maine. CNN reported Tuesday that as many as 44 states are refusing to turn over at least some of the information, such as Social Security numbers and birth dates.
But the commission only requested the last four of the Social Security numbers, and without either this or the birth date, it would likely be impossible for anyone to determine whether two common names such as “John Smith” are the same person or two different people.
“I’m not surprised that California and New York and other states would say ‘mind your [own] business,’ because what interest would they have in cleaning up their voter rolls? The dirt on their rolls serves their purpose,” says Jay Townsend, a long-time political consultant in New York who was the Republican nominee for Senate in 2012, running against Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY).
Townsend says he usually buys lists from a vendor, rather than going with the raw county lists.
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“I look at voter rolls, and they’ve got people on these lists who haven’t voted in quite a while,” he says, adding that New York is “notorious” for not maintaining its voter rolls.
In April, Judicial Watch sent letters to 11 states threatening to sue them for failing to maintain their rolls as required by the National Voter Registration Act (the “Motor Voter Act”) and the Help America Vote Act. In the letters, Judicial Watch cited as “strong circumstantial evidence” that the number of voters on the roll in some counties in these states had more people on it than there are voting-age citizens living in those counties.
The 11 states that got a letter are: Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Iowa, Kentucky, Maryland, New York, New Jersey, North Carolina, and Tennessee. They were given 90 days to fix the problem before Judicial Watch said it would file the suits.
In New York, Dawidziak pulled up the voter roll for Suffolk County — the raw data he gets from the county — and did a quick search. Of 959,294 voters, 116,981 haven’t voted in the past four years, and another 73,591 haven’t ever voted.
“Twenty percent of Suffolk County voters are seriously not there,” he says.
A 2012 study by the Pew Center for the States found that 24 million ineligible voters are on the voter rolls across the country, including an estimated 1.8 million dead people.
But while the failure to remove people from the roll who have died or moved is concerning, the greater concern is that people who are ineligible to vote are on the rolls and actually casting votes.
The media widely dismissed President Donald Trump’s allegation that millions of people had voted illegally in the 2016 presidential election, and that he would have won the popular vote if not for the illegitimate ballots.
But a study of immigration by an independent think tank called Just Facts, using YouGov data, found that up to 5.7 million illegal immigrants may have voted in 2008 — a stunning number that, even if half-true, would mean that the votes of millions of American citizens were canceled out, with scores of races affected.
The study notes that the federal voter form — the large postcard that became the main way for people to register to vote following the Motor Voter Act’s going into effect in 1995 — does not require people to prove that they are U.S. citizens. In at least some states, and perhaps most or all, a person can register to vote without providing a Social Security number, a driver’s license, a state ID number, or any other information confirming his identity.
The information that is being requested, vice-chair of the commission Kris Kobach said on CNN on Friday, is public information.
“Whatever a person on the street can walk in and get, that’s what we would like,” he told CNN’s Anderson Cooper.
Considering this, it’s hard to understand the response of some states to the data request.
“The president’s commission has quickly politicized its work by asking states for an incredible amount of voter data that I have, time and time again, refused to release,” Louisiana Secretary of State Tom Schedler, a Republican, said in a statement on Monday. “My response to the commission is, you’re not going to play politics with Louisiana’s voter data, and if you are, then you can purchase the limited public information available by law, to any candidate running for office. That’s it.”
But that is clearly what the commission was requesting — only what is available to candidates.
“Numerous states are refusing to give information to the very distinguished VOTER FRAUD PANEL. What are they trying to hide?” Donald Trump tweeted on July 1.