Left’s op­po­si­tion to elec­tion in­tegrity panel misses the mark

The Oklahoman (Sunday) - - OPINION -

PRES­I­DENT Trump’s Com­mis­sion on Elec­tion In­tegrity has asked states to pro­vide the group with voter data, and the po­lit­i­cal left is los­ing its col­lec­tive mind. That re­ac­tion isn’t shock­ing, but it’s still ridicu­lous.

One group, Pub­lic Cit­i­zen, has filed a law­suit ask­ing the courts to block col­lec­tion and dis­sem­i­na­tion of voter in­for­ma­tion. The group ar­gues the ad­min­is­tra­tion’s ef­forts vi­o­late the Pri­vacy Act, which “pro­hibits any agency from col­lect­ing, us­ing, main­tain­ing, or dis­sem­i­nat­ing records de­scrib­ing how any in­di­vid­ual ex­er­cises rights guar­an­teed by the First Amend­ment.”

“The fed­eral gov­ern­ment should not be com­pil­ing in­for­ma­tion about cit­i­zens’ po­lit­i­cal af­fil­i­a­tions and their ex­er­cise of the right to vote,” Pub­lic Cit­i­zen Pres­i­dent Robert Weiss­man said in a re­lease. “Amer­i­cans are right to be wor­ried about who will gain ac­cess to the data and how it will be used.”

Here’s the prob­lem for Pub­lic Cit­i­zen and like­minded crit­ics: The in­for­ma­tion be­ing re­quested is al­ready com­piled by gov­ern­ment and is al­ready pub­lic record, and has been for a long time.

That fact is ex­pressly noted in the let­ters sent to sec­re­taries of state by the Com­mis­sion on Elec­tion In­tegrity. Those let­ters asked for “the pub­licly avail­able voter roll data” for each state, “in­clud­ing, if pub­licly avail­able un­der the laws of your state,” the full first and last names of all reg­is­trants, mid­dle names or ini­tials, ad­dresses, dates of birth, po­lit­i­cal party, “last four dig­its of so­cial se­cu­rity num­ber if avail­able,” voter his­tory from 2006 on­ward, ac­tive/in­ac­tive sta­tus, can­celled sta­tus, in­for­ma­tion re­gard­ing any felony con­vic­tions and so on. (Em­pha­sis added.)

In Ok­la­homa, vot­ers’ So­cial Se­cu­rity num­bers are not pub­lic record, so that in­for­ma­tion is not be­ing pro­vided. But vot­ers’ names, party reg­is­tra­tion and vot­ing his­tory are pub­lic record, and will be pro­vided to the com­mis­sion — just as they are pro­vided to any­one re­quest­ing that data.

Some states have re­fused to com­ply at all, a de­ci­sion crit­i­cized by the edi­to­rial board of the Den­ver Post.

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

Hans von Spakovsky, a for­mer Jus­tice De­part­ment of­fi­cial serv­ing on the Trump com­mis­sion, calls re­ac­tion to the re­quest “ab­surd.”

“The com­mis­sion is ask­ing for voter reg­is­tra­tion and other in­for­ma­tion that is pub­licly avail­able. Not only do all of the po­lit­i­cal par­ties buy this in­for­ma­tion rou­tinely from sec­re­taries of states — so do can­di­dates," von Spakovsky told the Wash­ing­ton Ex­am­iner.

The 2012 Obama pres­i­den­tial cam­paign was famed for its use of an­a­lyt­ics. Any­one who thinks that didn’t in­volve cit­i­zens’ names, ad­dresses, vot­ing his­tory and much more is liv­ing in de­nial.

Not­with­stand­ing claims to the con­trary, the re­lease of pub­lic records doesn't vi­o­late the law, it com­plies with it.

One can ques­tion the mis­sion of the Com­mis­sion on Elec­tion In­tegrity. But al­low­ing state politi­cians to pick and choose when they com­ply with open-records laws is an in­vi­ta­tion to abuses just as bad as and po­ten­tially worse than those hy­poth­e­sized by Trump’s crit­ics.

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