In a Saturday morning tweet, President Donald Trump questioned the states refusing to comply with requests made by his administration’s new Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity by asking what they may be hiding.
“Numerous states are refusing to give information to the very distinguished VOTER FRAUD PANEL. What are they trying to hide?” Trump asked in a tweet.
Trump’s Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity — referred to in his tweet as “VOTER FRAUD PANEL” — has been met with backlash by some secretaries of state who say the requests it’s making are over the line in terms of the voter information it’s seeking.
On Saturday Alex Padilla, secretary of state for California — one of the many states refusing to comply with the commission’s request — responded to the president’s tweet today.
“Hiding? Nope. Fear? @realDonaldTrump using voter fraud lies to justify voter suppression. Stop investigating Americans. Focus on Russia,” he said in a tweet.
Other states including New York, New Mexico, Virginia, South Dakota and Mississippi have also said they will not comply with requests from the White House’s commission, which sent a letter last week to all 50 states asking for voter roll data. Information requested includes political party affiliations, the last four digits of social security numbers, voter history from 2006 onward, and any history of felony convictions and military service.
Trump established the commission, led by Vice President Mike Pence and Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, in May with the intent of investigating voter fraud and concerns of voter suppression. In the weeks following his 2016 electoral college win, Trump tweeted that he would have also won the popular vote “if you deduct the millions of people who voted illegally.”
Trump lost the popular vote by nearly 3 million votes.
Since winning the election, Trump and members of his administration have repeatedly made unsubstantiated claims of widespread voter fraud.
“What’s going on with voter fraud is horrible,” Trump told ABC News’ David Muir in a January interview. “You have people that are registered who are dead, who are illegals, who are in two states. You have people registered in two states. They’re registered in a New York and a New Jersey. They vote twice. There are millions of votes, in my opinion.”
But even the commission’s chairman Kobach — who sent the request and serves as Kansas’ secretary of state — said his state will not be providing the federal government with social security numbers.
“In Kansas, the social security number is not publicly available,” Kobach told the Kansas City Star in an interview Friday. “Every state receives the same letter but we’re not asking for it if it’s not publicly available.”
Vice President Pence’s home state of Indiana won’t be complying either, according to Indiana Secretary of State Connie Lawson.
“Indiana law doesn’t permit the secretary of state to provide the personal information requested by Secretary Kobach,” Lawson, a Republican, said in a statement. “Under Indiana public records laws, certain voter info is available to the public, the media and any other person who requested the information for non-commercial purposes. The information publicly available is name, address and congressional district assignment.”
Kay Stimson, the spokesperson for the National Association of Secretaries of State told ABC News they are currently “trying to compile information from states to see how they are responding to records request from the commission.”
“We want to know how they are using the information they are collecting. We have asked the White House and we have not gotten a response yet,” said Stimson.
Executive Director and Co-Founder of the Center for Election Innovation and Research David Becker says states vary in what information is publicly available.
“The commission has no special authority to collect data that I know of, so states have discretion about whether they provide data, and most seem to be providing only that which any member of the public could obtain,” Becker said.
The issue of states’ rights was raised by Mississippi’s Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann, a Republican, on Friday.
“They can go jump in the Gulf of Mexico, and Mississippi is a great state to launch from,” Hosemann said in a statement. “Mississippi residents should celebrate Independence Day and our state’s right to protect the privacy of our citizens by conducting our own electoral processes.”
At the White House press briefing on Friday, Deputy Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders told reporters that state refusals to turn over information are “mostly a political stunt.”
“This is a commission that’s asking for publicly available data. And the fact that these governors wouldn’t be willing to turn that over — this is something that’s been part of the commission’s discussion, which has bipartisan support, and none of the members raised any concern whatsoever.”
States have until July 14 to comply with the commission’s request.