Left’s opposition to election integrity panel misses the mark
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.