Arkansas will yield some data on vot­ers

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - FRONT PAGE - BRIAN FANNEY

Arkansas Sec­re­tary of State Mark Martin’s of­fice said Wed­nes­day that it will share some Arkansas voter data with a com­mis­sion tasked by Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump to in­ves­ti­gate voter fraud.

How­ever, Chris Pow­ell, a spokesman for the of­fice, said in­for­ma­tion con­sid­ered con­fi­den­tial

— in­clud­ing So­cial Se­cu­rity num­bers, felony con­vic­tions, mil­i­tary sta­tus and driver’s li­cense num­bers — will be with­held. Names, ad­dresses, dates of birth, po­lit­i­cal party af­fil­i­a­tions, voter his­tory since 2008, regis­tra­tion sta­tus, email ad­dresses and phone num­bers will be shared.

Pow­ell said the of­fice would pro­vide the same in­for­ma­tion to any­one who filed a state Free­dom of In­for­ma­tion Act re­quest. He said po­lit­i­cal par­ties, com­pa­nies, re­searchers and other in­di­vid­u­als fre­quently re­quest the data­base in­for­ma­tion. He noted that the data­base does not say for whom some­one voted — only whether or not they voted.

He did not an­swer a ques­tion about whether Martin sup­ported the work of Trump’s Pres­i­den­tial Ad­vi­sory Com­mis­sion on Elec­tion In­tegrity.

Ac­cord­ing to state­ments and news re­ports, three of the six states sur­round­ing Arkansas are plan­ning sim­i­lar re­sponses. Texas, Mis­souri and Ok­la­homa elec­tion of­fi­cials said they will pro­vide pub­lic voter in­for­ma­tion to the elec­tion com­mis­sion but will pro­tect pri­vate in­for­ma­tion.

The Texas and Mis­souri sec­re­taries of state are Repub­li­cans. Ok­la­homa elec­tions are ad­min­is­tered by a state board whose mem­bers are ap­pointed by the gov­er­nor, cur­rently a Repub­li­can.

How­ever, of­fi­cials from Louisiana, Ten­nessee and Mis­sis­sippi re­jected the com­mis­sion’s re­quest for var­i­ous rea­sons.

Louisiana Sec­re­tary of State Tom Schedler, a Repub­li­can, ac­cused the com­mis­sion of “play­ing pol­i­tics” and said “you can pur­chase the lim­ited pub­lic in­for­ma­tion, avail­able by law, to any can­di­date run­ning for of­fice. That’s it.”

Ten­nessee Sec­re­tary of State Tre Har­gett, a Repub­li­can, said Ten­nessee law does not al­low him to re­lease the re­quested in­for­ma­tion.

Mis­sis­sippi Sec­re­tary of State Delbert Hose­mann, a Repub­li­can, said in a state­ment: “My re­ply would be: They can go jump in the Gulf of Mex­ico, and Mis­sis­sippi is a great state to launch from.”

Kris Kobach, vice chair­man of the Pres­i­den­tial Ad­vi­sory Com­mis­sion on Elec­tion In­tegrity, told The As­so­ci­ated Press that news sto­ries stat­ing that 44 states have “re­fused” to pro­vide voter in­for­ma­tion to the com­mis­sion are “patently false.” Kobach said 20 states have agreed to com­ply with the re­quest, while 16 are re­view­ing what in­for­ma­tion they can re­lease.

He said only 14 states and the Dis­trict of Columbia have re­fused the re­quest out­right. Kobach said the com­mis­sion will use pub­lic records re­quests to ob­tain data that states won’t pro­vide.

When Pow­ell was asked if Martin, a Repub­li­can, had any con­cerns about sub­mit­ting the in­for­ma­tion to a na­tional data­base, Pow­ell said, “Voter list data is made pub­licly avail­able by law, and it’s not un­usual for us to get a re­quest for this kind of in­for­ma­tion.”

When asked if Martin sup­ported or op­posed the com­mis­sion, Pow­ell said in an email: “The Sec­re­tary rec­om­mended David Dunn to be a mem­ber of this bi-par­ti­san com­mis­sion and sup­ports any in­put Arkansas might have to the process.” Dunn is a for­mer Demo­cratic state law­maker from For­rest City.

In the re­quest let­ter, dated

June 28, Kobach noted that the com­mis­sion wanted Arkansas data — “if pub­licly avail­able un­der the laws of your state” — in­clud­ing names, ad­dresses, dates of birth, po­lit­i­cal party af­fil­i­a­tions, the last four dig­its of So­cial Se­cu­rity num­bers “if avail­able,” voter his­tory, voter sta­tus, felony con­vic­tions, in­for­ma­tion re­gard­ing voter regis­tra­tion in an­other state, mil­i­tary sta­tus and over­seas cit­i­zen in­for­ma­tion.

Pow­ell said the of­fice does not have voter his­tory from 2006-08 in its data­base; in­for­ma­tion re­gard­ing voter regis­tra­tion in an­other state; and over­seas cit­i­zen in­for­ma­tion. He also said that when a voter regis­tra­tion is can­celed, it is re­moved from the data­base.

Last week, Gov. Asa Hutchin­son came out against the re­quest in an in­ter­view on MSNBC.

“By and large, I would be very hes­i­tant to send out voter data that’s avail­able here in Arkansas into a na­tional data­base,” the Repub­li­can said. “Even though it’s pub­licly avail­able in­for­ma­tion I un­der­stand that they’re re­quest­ing, we gen­er­ally han­dle voter fraud is­sues state by state. I think we han­dle it well in Arkansas. We’ll wait and see what the let­ter says, but I’m a lit­tle hes­i­tant about it.”

On Wed­nes­day, Hutchin­son said in a state­ment that he had spo­ken to Martin and rec­om­mended that the state not pro­vide ev­ery­thing that

was re­quested.

“The re­quest is sim­ply too broad and in­cludes sen­si­tive in­for­ma­tion of Arkansas vot­ers. The Sec­re­tary has in­di­cated that he will not pro­vide Arkansas vot­ers’ most sen­si­tive data,” Hutchin­son said. “While we re­main com­mit­ted to en­sur­ing the in­tegrity of and con­fi­dence in our elec­toral process, pro­vid­ing all of the in­for­ma­tion re­quested is not in the best in­ter­est of Arkansas vot­ers.”

Hutchin­son and Martin have sep­a­rate roles un­der the state con­sti­tu­tion. Both are elected to their po­si­tions, and the sec­re­tary of state an­swers to vot­ers, not to the gov­er­nor.

In re­sponse to Martin’s planned ac­tion, Demo­cratic Party of Arkansas Chair­man Michael John Gray said he was con­cerned about how the data will be used.

“The spin will be — which is ex­actly what Sec­re­tary Martin is say­ing — I’m not send­ing them any­thing that they couldn’t get through other means that’s not avail­able to the gen­eral pub­lic,” said Gray, who is also a state rep­re­sen­ta­tive from Au­gusta. “But that leads to a big­ger ques­tion. I hope they’re not try­ing to uti­lize this in­for­ma­tion to build some type of na­tional voter regis­tra­tion data­base to make it harder for peo­ple to vote. That’s the real fear here.

“What’s the real goal here? What are we go­ing af­ter?”

Kobach, who is also the Repub­li­can sec­re­tary of state of Kansas and run­ning for gov­er­nor in that state in 2018, wrote in the let­ter that the data will be used to “fully an­a­lyze vul­ner­a­bil­i­ties and is­sues re­lated to voter regis­tra­tion and vot­ing.”

He wrote that the com­mis­sion ul­ti­mately wants to iden­tify “laws, rules, poli­cies, ac­tiv­i­ties, strate­gies, and prac­tices that en­hance or un­der­mine the Amer­i­can peo­ple’s con­fi­dence in the in­tegrity of fed­eral elec­tions pro­cesses.”

Trump has made mul­ti­ple claims that “there is large scale voter fraud hap­pen­ing on and be­fore elec­tion day” but has not pro­vided ev­i­dence to back up those as­ser­tions.

The U.S. Con­sti­tu­tion gives states pri­mary re­spon­si­bil­ity for elec­tions.

“The Times, Places and Man­ner of hold­ing Elec­tions for Se­na­tors and Rep­re­sen­ta­tives, shall be pre­scribed in each State by the Leg­is­la­ture thereof; but the Congress may at any time by Law make or al­ter such Reg­u­la­tions, ex­cept as to the Places of chus­ing [sic] Se­na­tors,” ac­cord­ing to Ar­ti­cle 1 of the U.S. Con­sti­tu­tion.

Martin, who served as an in­struc­tor at the Boys Scouts’ Camp Orr in the Buf­falo Na­tional River Wilder­ness Area near Har­ri­son for most of June, is pre­par­ing to head to the sum­mer con­fer­ence of the Na­tional As­so­ci­a­tion of Sec­re­taries of State this week­end in In­di­anapo­lis, Pow­ell said. Con­sti­tu­tional of­fi­cers are not granted leave, or re­quired to take leave, he said.

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