State voter data resubmitted to federal panel
First batch sent for fraud probe deleted amid security concerns
For the second time, Arkansas has provided voter data to President Donald Trump’s voter-fraud commission.
The state’s first response, sent about a month ago, was deleted over security concerns.
Instead of uploading the information to a file exchange run by the Department of Defense, as was done for the first request, states are now being asked to send the information to a White House computer system.
According to a letter and emails obtained from the Arkansas secretary of state’s office, the request was made Wednesday and the files were uploaded Thursday.
In a letter to Secretary of State Mark Martin, Kris Kobach, vice chairman of the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity, emphasized privacy.
“I want to assure you that the Commission will not publicly release any personally identifiable information regarding any individual voter or any group of voters from the voter registration records you submit,” he wrote. “Individuals’ voter registration records will be kept confidential and secure throughout the duration of the Commission’s existence.”
In a previous letter, dated June 28, Kobach wrote: “Please be aware that any documents that are submitted to the full Commission will also be made available to the public.”
The reversal came as some voters said they were concerned about their privacy and the commission’s intent.
Rep. Vivian Flowers, D-Pine Bluff, who is chairman of the Legislative Black Caucus, said the caucus met with Chief Deputy Secretary of State Kelly Boyd about voter data last week.
“I would have liked to have seen the secretary of state get more information about how they plan to use the voter information of our citizens before sharing it, given the controversies and the issues and the concerns,” she said in an interview.
Flowers said that while the information is public, not knowing how the records will be used, coupled with White House controversies involving Russian election meddling, cause her concern.
“I’m concerned as an individual voter and I think as a caucus we’re concerned about what that means for
our constituents,” she said.
Arkansas was the first state to submit information in response to the June 28 letter from the federal commission.
Chris Powell, a spokesman for Martin, said a hotline had been set up at (501) 435-3294 because “we know that many people have strong opinions on this issue that they want to express.”
“We received many calls in recent weeks, but our staff still need to be able to perform their day-to-day functions, so we wanted to have a centralized way to be able to do that and still accommodate concerned citizens,” he said.
Powell noted a similar hotline had been set up in the past in response to proposals to set up more monuments on Capitol grounds.
The batch of records uploaded Thursday was first reported by the Arkansas Times.
A previous upload was deleted by federal officials because the the Safe Access File Exchange site to which it was uploaded was at the heart of a lawsuit filed by the Washington, D.C.-based Electronic Privacy Information Center.
The Electronic Privacy Information Center contended that the commission failed to conduct a privacy information assessment — required under the E-Government Act of 2002 — before collecting the data using the Department of Defense system.
“The ‘SAFE’ URL, recommend by the Commission for the submission of voter data, leads election officials to a non-secure site,” according to the center.
In the letter Wednesday, Kobach noted that he had asked states to delay sending information because a judge needed to rule on a motion from the center that sought to prevent the commission from receiving the records.
The court denied the motion on Monday and, in light of that decision, the commission again reached out and asked for records.
In the initial request for information, 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.
The information submitted from Arkansas does not contain Social Security numbers, felony convictions, military status or driver’s license numbers. Such information is not publicly available in Arkansas.
However, the other data — names, addresses, dates of birth, voter history since 2008, registration status, email addresses and phone numbers — have been shared. The database does not say for whom people voted — only whether they voted in an election, including in which primary.
The same Arkansas voter information that was released to the Trump administration has been provided about 200 times since January 2015 to various entities, Boyd told legislators and county clerks meeting earlier this month in Eureka Springs.
Chris Powell, a spokesman for Secretary of State Mark Martin, said a hotline had been set up at (501) 435-3294 because “we know that many people have strong opinions on this issue that they want to express.”