I read with concern your July 10, 2017 editorial on my decision to not send California voter information to President Donald Trump’s voter fraud commission.
Election security and voting rights should not be partisan issues. Unfortunately, the Trump administration has politicized both with the creation of his sham “Election Integrity” commission. His commission’s first action was an unprecedented request for the personal information of every registered voter in America.
The basis for this request is Trump’s belief that up to 5 million illegal votes were cast last November. He invented this number after he learned that he had lost the popular vote to Hillary Clinton by millions of votes. Instead of focusing on Russian interference in our elections, he has chosen to target America’s voters.
California was among a handful of states he singled out as being responsible for his loss of the national popular vote in the 2016 presidential election.
Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach is the de-facto chair of the commission. He signed the letter requesting the personal information of all U.S. voters. It was such an over-reach that Kobach himself would be in violation of Kansas law if he complied with his own request.
As a result, Kobach has retreated substantially from the letter he sent to all 50 states. First, almost immediately after sending his letter, he conceded that compliance is voluntary, after overwhelming push-back from both Republican and Democratic secretaries of state. Second, he was forced to change the method and manner of data transmission in response to various legal challenges.
To make matters worse, he now asserts that voter data will be stored on White House computers. Third, he suspended the commission’s receipt of voter data while the court considers a legal challenge by the Electronic Privacy Information Center. By any measure, this commission is off to a very bad start.
I oppose the commission not just because the commission has demonstrated it is ill-equipped to handle sensitive data. More importantly, I know that its commissioners — specifically, Adams, Blackwell, Kobach and von Spakofsky — have spent their tenures as secretaries of state and Department of Justice voting section officials advancing policies that suppress the vote. I do not trust this commission with the personal data of Californians and how they would use it.
The vice president’s office has suggested that state voter data will be compared against federal databases in an attempt to root-out ineligible voters on the rolls.
Elections and data experts have already warned that comparing records in this manner will only lead to a plethora of false-positives and unfairly disenfranchise American citizens. California should not be party to the commission’s efforts to distort the truth and create fear of unproven voter fraud in an attempt to make it harder for eligible citizens to vote.
California Elections Code places specific limits on what voter information can or cannot be shared. It also places limits on how that information may or may not be used. I intend to do all I can to protect the privacy of voters.
As California’s chief elections official, my opposition to this commission is based on the profound harm to our nation’s voting rights that would inevitably result if I, and others, do not stand up and say “no.” I cannot in good conscience send the personal data of California voters to Trump’s commission.
Alex Padilla is California secretary of state.