Wyoming Won’t Release Voter Info to ‘Election Integrity’ Commission

By on July 3, 2017

JACKSON HOLE, WY – Wyoming voter information is safe from federal meddling. Republican Secretary of State Ed Murray announced Monday he will not provide voter info to President Trump’s Advisory Commission on Election Integrity.

“I am going to safeguard the privacy of Wyoming’s voters because of my strong belief in a citizen’s right of privacy,” Murray said in a statement. “I believe elections are the responsibility of the states under the United States Constitution and I do believe this request could lead to a federal overreach.”

In his statement, Murray also noted skepticism about the commission’s intent: “I am not at all convinced that it has clearly stated its purpose is connected to the information requested.”

According to a letter Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, vice chair of the commission, sent to all 50 states last week, the commission is seeking the following information: voters’ full names and addresses, dates of birth, political parties, the last four digits of their social security numbers, a list of the elections they voted in since 2006, felony convictions, information on whether they were registered to vote in other states, military status, and whether they lived overseas.

Wyoming is among 44 states that have refused to provide the commission with voter data, CNN reported Tuesday.

The commission, headed by Vice President Mike Pence, has so far received the support of three states: Colorado, Missouri and Tennessee. Colorado Secretary of State Wayne Williams–R, said in a statement, “We are very glad they are asking for information before making decisions. I wish more federal agencies would ask folks for their opinion and for information before they made decisions.”

Meanwhile, secretaries of state like Murray are using this as an opportunity to reaffirm their commitment to voters: “Wyoming’s elections are secure, fair, transparent and well-run. I assure every Wyoming citizen that I will safeguard the privacy of Wyoming’s voters while continuing to uphold and protect the integrity of Wyoming’s elections.”

States across the country argue the commission’s request violates state and federal laws, and now the commission is facing a lawsuit filed Monday by the Electronic Privacy Information Center, a Washington DC nonprofit focused on privacy and civil liberties issues.

EPIC asserts the commission failed to produce and publish a privacy impact assessment, required by federal law. The commission’s demand for detailed voter histories, EPIC argues, violates the constitutional right to privacy.

The group also alleges the commission has committed “two egregious security blunders”: directing state election officials to send voter records to an unsecure website and proposing to publish partial social security numbers. EPIC says this would enable identity theft and financial fraud.

According to the White House website, the commission was formed to “study the registration and voting processes used in federal elections.” Specifically, Trump has said he’s interested in investigating voter fraud, though he has yet to produce any evidence to support his allegation that as many as 5 million people voted illegally in the 2016 presidential election.

The commission formed at an interesting time, wrote Nicol Turner-Lee in a recent report for the Brookings Institution. It was just days after the Supreme Court rejected an appeal to reinstate North Carolina’s stringent voter identification laws that were found to discriminate against African Americans “with almost surgical precision.”

Within days following this ruling, Turner-Lee noted, the court also found that two of North Carolina’s congressional redistricting maps resulted from unconstitutional racial gerrymandering.

[This story has been updated to reflect two additional states rejecting the commission’s request.]

 

 

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About Robyn Vincent

Robyn is the editor of Jackson Hole Snowboarder Magazine and former editor of Planet Jackson Hole. When she's not sweating deadlines, she likes to travel the world with her notebook and camera in hand. Follow her on Twitter @TheNomadicHeart

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