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Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - EDITORIAL PAGE -

Pres­i­dent Trump’s blue rib­bon com­mis­sion in­ves­ti­gat­ing po­ten­tial voter fraud keeps get­ting in its own way. Af­ter run­ning into wide­spread re­sis­tance from state elec­tion of­fi­cials to turn­ing over their records en masse, the Pres­i­den­tial Ad­vi­sory Com­mis­sion on Elec­tion In­tegrity has now es­sen­tially told us folks in Arkansas — who had turned over what we legally could but noth­ing more — oh, well, never mind.

It shouldn’t sur­prise any­one that this com­mis­sion is run­ning in cir­cles. It is charged with look­ing into a prob­lem that doesn’t re­ally ex­ist.

Win­ning the Elec­toral Col­lege wasn’t enough for Don­ald Trump. The fact that his op­po­nent col­lected more pop­u­lar votes than he did in Novem­ber 2016 was so be­yond his com­pre­hen­sion that the pres­i­dent made the un­cor­rob­o­rated al­le­ga­tion that he would have won the pop­u­lar vote too had not so many il­le­gal votes been cast. De­spite study af­ter study show­ing that the num­ber of un­qual­i­fied vot­ers ac­tu­ally cast­ing bal­lots is so mi­nus­cule that it couldn’t af­fect a na­tional elec­tion, Pres­i­dent Trump didn’t let up. He dou­bled down on his du­bi­ous claims by or­ga­niz­ing this com­mis­sion, which seems to be in charge of dis­cred­it­ing an elec­tion that Trump ac­tu­ally won.

Go fig­ure.

The com­mis­sion, in an at­tempt to look busy, asked in­di­vid­ual states (who ac­tu­ally do the real work in na­tional elec­tions) to turn over all kinds of voter in­for­ma­tion — names, ad­dresses, party af­fil­i­a­tions, even por­tions of So­cial Se­cu­rity num­bers — so it could ex­am­ine it all in one dig­i­tal place.

States ob­jected for many rea­sons, not the least of which was pro­tect­ing the pri­vacy of in­di­vid­ual vot­ers. It also seemed like a bad idea to put such highly sen­si­tive in­for­ma­tion all in one place, es­pe­cially in a world where we know at least one of our na­tion’s en­e­mies was ac­tively at­tempt­ing to hack vot­ing records not only in the U.S., but in other democ­ra­cies. The fact that Amer­i­can elec­tion in­for­ma­tion is so dif­fused and kept in so many dif­fer­ent places is ac­tu­ally a pretty strong de­ter­rent to wide­spread elec­tion fraud.

Here in Arkansas, the agency in charge of voter in­for­ma­tion is the Sec­re­tary of State’s of­fice. Its re­sponse to the re­quest was to col­lect the voter data that is al­ways avail­able to any­one un­der the state’s Free­dom of In­for­ma­tion Act, and turn it over. The in­for­ma­tion re­quested by the task force that was ex­empt from dis­clo­sure was not pro­vided. That was the right call.

Let’s stop and cel­e­brate, just for a mo­ment, that some­one from the Arkansas Sec­re­tary of State’s of­fice both ac­knowl­edged and sought to ful­fill a re­quest for records pur­suant to the FOIA. Some will tell you that’s not al­ways been the case with Sec­re­tary Mark Martin’s of­fice.

In this case, how­ever, the kind of in­for­ma­tion that was re­leased to the com­mis­sion is rou­tinely given to out to any­one who asks. In­for­ma­tion the com­mis­sion wanted that, by law, should be pri­vate re­mained so.

Alas, it was all for naught. We read in our own news­pa­per a few days ago that the task force didn’t want those records af­ter all, at least not un­til they can be stored in a man­ner more se­cure than the one they had.

Think about that for a mo­ment: A com­mis­sion charged with pro­tect­ing the in­tegrity of Amer­i­can elec­tions asked for voter in­for­ma­tion to be de­liv­ered to them in a man­ner that, ap­par­ently by its own ad­mis­sion, wasn’t en­tirely se­cure.

These peo­ple shouldn’t be trusted with any pri­vate in­for­ma­tion, about vot­ers or any­thing else.

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