Arkansas will yield some data on voters
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
“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.