HARTFORD, CT — Connecticut Secretary of the State Denise Merrill, said she’s concluded that complying with a request for information from President Donald Trump’s commission investigating the integrity of the 2016 election “is not in the best interest of Connecticut residents.”
Merrill, who at first said she would supply any publicly available data to the commission, sent a letter July 2 to Kris Kobach, vice chairman of the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity, to let him know that the request was “overly broad and required the sharing of Connecticut residents’ personally identifiable information for the vague purpose of ‘analyzing vulnerabilities and issues related to voter registration and voting’.”
Kobach, whose commission was created by an executive order in May, sent a letter to 50 states last week requesting voter data.
Merrill said Kobach’s “request fails to outline any legal authority of the Commission and lacks the detailed assurances necessary regarding how to safeguard the personally identifiable information you are attempting to obtain.”
Merrill is not alone in her skepticism of the presidential commission.
CNN reported that 44 states and the District of Columbia have refused to provide certain types of voter information to the election integrity commission.
On Saturday, Trump turned to Twitter to question whether the states had something to hide.
“Numerous states are refusing to give information to the very distinguished VOTER FRAUD PANEL. What are they trying to hide?” Trump tweeted.
But Merrill pointed out that Kobach is asking for far more information than is publicly available.
In his letter to Merrill, Kobach asked for the last four digits of Social Security numbers “if available,” voter history and “information regarding any felony convictions.”
“I am particularly troubled by the fact that, while you request files with personally identifiable information, there is no mention of how you intend to protect those who are eligible for specific confidentiality terms under state law, such as victims of domestic violence and law enforcement officers,” Merrill said in her letter.
Additionally Merrill had some questions for the commission.
“Does the Commission acknowledge that Russia attempted to affect the outcome of the 2016 election and that the Russians attempted to hack into election systems?” was just one of eight questions Merrill asks in her letter.
Groups like Common Cause have also expressed concern about the request.
“We are very concerned that the Pence-Kobach commission, premised on the lie of rampant illegal voting, is nothing more than a partisan attempt to manipulate our voting processes that will make it harder for eligible Americans to vote,” Common Cause President Karen Hobert-Flynn said. “We are pleased that so many election officials have already spoken out with their concerns about the requests.”
Common Cause is not alone.
On Monday the Electronic Privacy Information Center filed a lawsuit in federal court asking for a temporary restraining order to halt the collection of personal voter data.
The Washington-based group said the commission failed to produce and publish a Privacy Impact Assessment, required by federal law. The lawsuit follows a letter from 50 voting experts and 20 privacy organizations urging state election officials to oppose the commission’s demand.