Trump's "Election Commission" Is Garbage, and Always Remember It's Being Run by Mike Pence

Late last month, Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, the vice-chair of Donald Trump's Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity, sent a letter to the Secretaries of State of all 50 states, requesting that voter data for every registered voter in the entire country — including name, address, birthdate, partial SSN, voting history, and party affiliation — be sent to the White House.

To anyone who does not afford unearned good faith to the Republican Party, nor to Mike Pence, the head of the commission, this was a transparent ploy to lay the groundwork for a nationwide voter suppression effort under the auspices of "voter fraud prevention."

There was also no reason to trust, at all, that the commission, nor the White House, nor the Republican Party, would properly secure that information, if provided.

Indeed, former Secretary of Homeland Security Michael Chertoff penned a piece for the Washington Post warning that the request potentially poses a major national security risk: "If this sensitive data is to be collected and aggregated by the federal government, then the administration should honor its own recent cybersecurity executive order and ensure that the data is not stolen by hackers or insiders."

Suffice it to say, there is evidently no plan for securing the data, during transfer or subsequent storage.

Secretaries of State from around the country quickly starting releasing statements raising concerns about the request and/or announcing a flat-out refusal to comply. At this point, 44 states have now said that they don't intend to submit the information as requested.

Mark Berman and John Wagner at the Washington Post: Why Almost Every State Is Partially or Fully Rebuffing Trump's Election Commission.
Pushback has swept across red and blue states alike, drawing in Democratic critics of the president and Republicans uneasy about a broad federal request they suggest intrudes on states' rights. That sentiment has been notable for including Republicans such as Arizona Secretary of State Michele Reagan, who called the commission's request a "hastily organized experiment," and Louisiana Secretary of State Tom Schedler, who described it as "federal intrusion and overreach."

The Trump administration has bristled at some of the recent criticism and media coverage. In a statement Wednesday, Kobach assailed media reports describing states as refusing to hand over data, calling them "more 'fake news.'"

"Despite media distortions and obstruction by a handful of state politicians, this bipartisan commission on election integrity will continue its work to gather the facts through public records requests to ensure the integrity of each American's vote because the public has a right to know," Kobach said in the statement, released by the White House. He also emphasized that the commission's letters had asked only for publicly available data and that many states are complying. "At present, only 14 states and the District of Columbia have refused the Commission's request for publicly available voter information."

More than two dozen states said they will provide some of the requested information, according to interviews, public statements and media accounts. Others have not announced decisions or elaborated on what they plan to provide.

Marc Lotter, a spokesman for Pence, said the commission will work with remaining states to obtain data through public-records requests or other means. He would not rule out the commission purchasing data from states, if such policies are consistent with how other parties seeking such information are treated.
Two important takeaways there:

One: There are plenty of states, especially Republican-led states, who are making lots of grunty noises and outraged gestures about this request, but are, as Kobach says, complying with him as much as their laws allow.

In fact, per Greg Palast: Twenty-one of the states on the list of 44 "have already turned over voter files to Kobach's office," including, for example, Louisiana, which "turned over nearly three million voter files to Kobach earlier this year, including voter birthdates and Social Security information" — even though its Secretary of State Tom Schedler said, "The President's Commission has quickly politicized its work by asking states for an incredible amount of voter data that I have, time and time again, refused to release."

Basically, there are a number of Republican-led states who were giving up voter info even before this request, and now they're making public statements suggesting otherwise.

Which is par for the course: Republican state legislatures have been enacting voter suppression efforts for decades under the auspices of preventing voter fraud, despite the fact that widespread voter fraud does not exist, according to multiple and exhaustive studies. The GOP continually lies about this issue, and the national commission is, unsurprisingly, no different.

Two: If states legitimately refuse to comply, the commission will seek to procure the information in some other way. That means if you live in a Democratically-led state whose elected officials are protecting your privacy as you elected them to do, the federal government will try to do an end-run around them.

This in particular has Pence written all over it. The complete abandonment of "small-government conservatism" when it suits him; the hostility to privacy and consent; the intense disregard for anything resembling respect for voting rights, because voter suppression is a key to a winning electoral strategy for Republicans.

This entire debacle is a gross abuse of power — and, although Kris Kobach's name is at the top of every story, always remember that the person hand-selected by Donald Trump to lead and oversee the commission is Mike Pence.

Who clearly wants a national voter suppression strategy in place ahead of his presidential run. Whenever that will be.

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