We’re in*

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - VOICES - Mike Master­son Mike Master­son is a long­time Arkansas jour­nal­ist. Email him at mmas­ter­son@arkansason­line.com.

Hav­ing some rel­e­vant in­for­ma­tion is bet­ter than none when it comes to de­tect­ing the scourge of voter fraud on a na­tional scale, which makes me won­der why ev­ery state wouldn’t be ea­ger to know if theirs might be in­fected.

Raw par­ti­san pol­i­tics and/or fear of ex­po­sure and re­sult­ing em­bar­rass­ment could be rea­sons some states are with­hold­ing fun­da­men­tal in­for­ma­tion about ex­actly who re­port­edly voted (and how) in re­cent elec­tions.

For what­ever rea­sons, the na­tional me­dia ini­tially re­ported that more than 40 states, in­clud­ing Arkansas, said they wouldn’t par­tic­i­pate fully with the on­go­ing fed­eral in­ves­ti­ga­tion com­mis­sioned by the pres­i­dent and headed by Vice Pres­i­dent Mike Pence, as­sisted by vice chair­man Kris Kobach.

Kobach is the GOP sec­re­tary of state in Kansas who’s run­ning for gover­nor there.

Per­haps as an in­di­ca­tion of the dire need for ac­cu­racy in some­thing as sa­cred as our vot­ing sys­tem in con­trast with less than ac­cu­rate news ac­counts, Kobach said na­tional me­dia was falsely re­port­ing last week that 44 states re­fused to turn over the re­quested in­for­ma­tion.

For those in­ter­ested in facts, how­ever, Kobach said 20 states had agreed to com­ply with the re­quest, while 16 were re­view­ing what data to re­lease. Only 14 states and the Dis­trict of Columbia had re­fused the re­quest out­right at the time he com­mented.

Even flat de­nials likely will only cre­ate a de­lay since the com­mis­sion says it will use public-records re­quests to ob­tain the data.

Rea­sons given for with­hold­ing in­cluded in­va­sion-of-pri­vacy fears and con­cern this public in­for­ma­tion could some­how be used to sup­press cit­i­zens’ right to vote.

Hard to un­der­stand such ra­tio­nales con­sid­er­ing our elec­tions and voter rolls are in­deed public in­for­ma­tion. In or­der to de­ter­mine po­ten­tial fraud in the na­tion’s elec­tion process, Kobach also did ask for in­for­ma­tion that could jus­ti­fi­ably be con­sid­ered out of bounds.

I’m talk­ing about data such as the last four dig­its of a voter’s So­cial Se­cu­rity num­ber, felony con­vic­tions, phone num­bers and driver’s li­cense num­bers.

How­ever, my tiny brain says it can’t be harm­ful in a free and open so­ci­ety to share help­ful gov­ern­ment-gath­ered public in­for­ma­tion with the larger gov­ern­ment if the data con­sists of a voter’s name, birth date, party af­fil­i­a­tion, vot­ing his­tory since 2008 and reg­is­tra­tion sta­tus.

Af­ter all, it’s the same in­for­ma­tion you or I could law­fully ob­tain by fling a Free­dom of In­for­ma­tion Act re­quest.

Kobach’s an­nounced goal is to en­sure hon­est elec­tions, which seems far more crit­i­cal than, say, whether Rus­sia “med­dled” in some un­spec­i­fied way with our elec­tion.

He specif­i­cally asked for the states’ rec­om­men­da­tions to im­prove elec­tion in­tegrity. Kobach also sought guid­ance on which laws they be­lieve de­ter that goal.

That, too, sounds rea­son­able to ask of any state in­ter­ested in en­sur­ing its vot­ing process is as trust­wor­thy as pos­si­ble. (I can imag­ine some states that might break a sweat to have the feds au­dit­ing their elec­tion pat­terns and prac­tices.)

Reporter Brian Fanney quoted Gov. Asa Hutchin­son say­ing he’s “very hes­i­tant” to pro­vide the in­for­ma­tion avail­able in an Arkansas data­base to a na­tional data­base be­cause, well, even though it’s public, “we gen­er­ally han­dle voter-fraud is­sues state by state.”

The gover­nor also be­lieves we han­dle elec­tion mat­ters well in Arkansas and rec­om­mended Sec­re­tary of State Mark Martin not pro­vide all the in­for­ma­tion Kobach re­quested, which Martin al­ready had de­cided, say­ing the re­quest is too broad and in­cludes sen­si­tive in­for­ma­tion that’s not in the best in­ter­est of Arkansas vot­ers to re­lease.

So, while other states wres­tle over whether to sub­mit the in­for­ma­tion in or­der to val­i­date var­i­ous states’ pro­nounced claims of hon­esty and in­tegrity, for now Arkansas will par­tic­i­pate (with an as­ter­isk.)

News re­ports say so will Texas, Mis­souri and Ok­la­homa, while Louisiana, Ten­nessee and Mis­sis­sippi ini­tially balked at pro­vid­ing the in­for­ma­tion.

Since those six states have Repub­li­can ad­min­is­tra­tions, I rolled my right eye when I heard their rea­son­ings.

Louisiana Sec­re­tary of State Tom Schedler ac­cused the fed­eral com­mis­sion of “play­ing pol­i­tics” and ad­vised them to pur­chase the lim­ited in­for­ma­tion avail­able to those run­ning for of­fice.

In Ten­nessee, Sec­re­tary of State Tre Har­gett said their state law pre­vents them from turn­ing over the re­quested in­for­ma­tion.

And ev­ery­one who read Mis­sis­sippi Sec­re­tary of State Del­bert Hose­mann’s re­sponse likely chuck­led along with me: “They can go jump in the Gulf of Mex­ico, and Mis­sis­sippi is a great state to launch from.”

Like most of us en­joy­ing life in a con­ser­va­tive South­ern state, I wasn’t that sur­prised to see the Demo­crat lead­ers of Cal­i­for­nia and Vir­ginia refuse to par­tic­i­pate.

Ac­tu­ally, it strikes me that the same fed­eral gov­ern­ment that pro­cesses our tax re­turns from ev­ery state, in­ves­ti­gates our crimes, pro­vides for hu­man needs and ser­vices, over­sees trans­porta­tion and funds our mil­i­tary, knows plenty about each of us and likely could quickly de­ter­mine a lot about pos­si­ble cor­rup­tion by ac­quir­ing just ba­sic public in­for­ma­tion about each state’s vot­ing pop­u­la­tion.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.