Voter records are pub­lic records.

The Denver Post - - PERSPECTIVE -

After the Pres­i­den­tial Advisory Com­mis­sion on Elec­tion In­tegrity asked all 50 states to pro­vide pub­licly ac­ces­si­ble voter reg­is­tra­tion data, out­rage spread like wild­fire. Many gov­er­nors and sec­re­taries of state, hop­ing not to get burned, balked at the re­quest. In the process, they con­ve­niently ig­nored their pub­lic records laws.

Colorado Sec­re­tary of State Wayne Wil­liams took a more mea­sured course. He might be a lit­tle overly op­ti­mistic about the value of the com­mis­sion’s work, but he re­sponded to the records re­quest by say­ing he would fol­low Colorado law. Reg­is­tered vot­ers’ name, home ad­dress, party af­fil­i­a­tion, birth year, phone num­ber (if pro­vided) and whether they voted in past elec­tions are all pub­lic records in Colorado. Any­one can have them, even mem­bers of a pres­i­den­tial com­mis­sion.

Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump formed the com­mis­sion to root out mas­sive voter fraud. He be­lieves, but has of­fered no ev­i­dence, that mil­lions of peo­ple voted il­le­gally in 2016, giv­ing Hil­lary Clin­ton a pop­u­lar vote victory if not an Elec­toral Col­lege one.

At best, the com­mis­sion is on a wild goose chase. At worst, it is based on a lie. Study after study has found that voter fraud is ex­ceed­ingly rare. At worst, it is lay­ing the ground­work for voter sup­pres­sion.

Yet Vice Pres­i­dent Mike Pence, who chairs the com­mis­sion, and his team of voter fraud con­spir­acy the­o­rists want to dig into the voter records. Hence the let­ter to states.

Many of the states that have re­fused to com­ply cite the same sorts of con­cerns as Cal­i­for­nia Sec­re­tary of State Alex Padilla. “Cal­i­for­nia’s par­tic­i­pa­tion would only serve to le­git­imize the false and al­ready de­been bunked claims of mas­sive voter fraud,” he said.

Per­haps Cal­i­for­nia’s open gov­ern­ment laws give their elected of­fi­cials the right to pick and choose whose re­quest is ac­cept­able and whose is not.

In Colorado, like most states, why some­one wants a record is al­most al­ways ir­rel­e­vant. All that mat­ters is that the record is pub­lic. Any­one from a blog­ger in Boul­der to the pres­i­dent’s com­mis­sion can re­ceive Colorado voter reg­is­tra­tion records.

Sec­re­tary of State Wil­liams will fol­low the law, as he should. We en­cour­age him to charge a rea­son­able fee for pro­duc­ing the records, just like Colorado of­fi­cials do when reg­u­lar peo­ple ask for records. He also should make sure to trans­mit the records se­curely, not just in an in­se­cure email as the com­mis­sion asked.

Not ev­ery­thing that Trump’s elec­tion com­mis­sion sought is pub­lic. For ex­am­ple, par­tial So­cial Se­cu­rity num­bers are ex­empt from dis­clo­sure in Colorado. With­hold­ing those ex­empt records is right in any state, but a blan­ket re­fusal goes too far.

Coloradans who don’t want their voter reg­is­tra­tion records shared with the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion or any­one else can re­quest con­fi­den­tial­ity. In order to qual­ify, one must be­lieve that a mem­ber of one’s house­hold will be sub­ject to crim­i­nal ha­rass­ment or bod­ily harm be­cause the record is pub­licly avail­able. Just visit your county clerk’s of­fice in per­son and com­plete the form. If you do so quickly, you might qual­ify be­fore records are pulled for the pres­i­den­tial com­mis­sion.

With­hold­ing pub­lic records sim­ply be­cause you don’t like the pres­i­dent or be­cause he is in­ves­ti­gat­ing elec­tion fraud sets a ter­ri­ble prece­dent and is per­haps il­le­gal.

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