Lawmaker to Trump’s Election Commission: Drop Your Voter Data Request

Rep. Gerry Connolly, D-Va.

Rep. Gerry Connolly, D-Va. Alex Brandon/AP

Rep. Gerry Connolly urged Mike Pence to abandon a search for sensitive voter data.

A presidential commission investigating voter fraud could compromise voters’ personal information, says one lawmaker who is urging the panel to drop its request for that data.

President Donald Trump established the panel in May via an executive order. The Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity aims to look into “vulnerabilities in voting systems and practices used for Federal elections that could lead to improper voter registrations and improper voting” such as “fraudulent voter registrations and fraudulent voting.”

That panel has asked states to hand over sensitive information about voters including birth dates, the last four digits of their Social Security numbers, past convictions and other personally identifiable data. Members plan to match that data to other information that might help identify instances of fraud.

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The investigation is a “thinly veiled effort to carry out voter suppression on a national scale,” Rep. Gerry Connolly, D-Va., wrote Tuesday in a letter to Vice President Mike Pence. “States should not comply.”

Some states and the District of Columbia are already resisting that request. Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, the commission’s vice chair, has discredited news reports 44 states have refused, characterizing those reports as “fake news," and maintaining last week 36 states have agreed or are considering agreeing.

The request “risks compromising the privacy of millions of Americans’ personal information, potentially violates several federal statutes, paves the way for illegal purging of voter rolls, and is based on false claims made by President Trump and members of his administration,” Connolly wrote in that letter. Both Trump and Kobach have made “false accusations of widespread voter fraud in the 2016 U.S. presidential election,” Connolly wrote, arguing that “Russian President Vladimir Putin directed a massive interference campaign to influence the election in President Trump’s favor, and 17 U.S. intelligence agencies agree with that assessment.”

“Congress will not allow this Commission to disregard existing policies and laws enacted to protect personal information.”

Connolly’s letter comes as news unfolds about meetings between Trump’s son, Donald Trump Jr., Trump senior adviser and son-in-law, Jared Kushner, and former Trump campaign manager, Paul Manafort, with Russian executives claiming to have information about Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton. The Justice Department is investigating the Trump administration’s connections to the Russian government.

The American Civil Liberties Union is suing Trump, Pence and the commission for violating the Federal Advisory Committee Act and not being transparent with citizens about the timing or content of their meetings.

Despite pushback from states, lawmakers and advocacy groups, Trump's administration appears to be expanding the commission, announcing Tuesday the appointment of new members J. Christian Adams of Virginia and Alan Lamar King of Alabama.