Capitol Alert

Why California denied the Trump administration’s request for voter data

When a commission created by President Donald Trump to investigate voter fraud asked all 50 states last week to share the name, party affiliation, last four digits of social security number, voting history and other personal information for each of the country’s 200 million registered voters, the outcry was swift, widespread and bipartisan.

More than 40 states so far have turned down the request completely or in part, citing privacy laws and concerns about how the data would be used by the Presidential Advisory Commission on Voter Integrity. The commission was established in May, following Trump’s complaints that he only lost the popular vote in the November election because there were millions of illegal voters.

California was one of the first states to reject the inquiry. In a scathing statement, Secretary of State Alex Padilla said he would “not provide sensitive voter information to a commission that has already inaccurately passed judgment that millions of Californians voted illegally.”

“The President's Commission is a waste of taxpayer money and a distraction from the real threats to the integrity of our elections today: aging voting systems and documented Russian interference in our elections,” he added.

Much of the requested data is actually available in California to “any person for election, scholarly, journalistic, or political purposes.” But the Secretary of State’s Office noted that state law prohibits recipients of voter rolls from posting the information online, while Trump’s commission plans to make everything it receives available to the public.

Even if that were that not the case, however, Padilla still would have denied the request, which states have no legal obligation to fulfill. The Secretary of State’s Office expressed reservations about the security of the data collection and pointed out that it does not track some of what the commission asked for, such as information on voters’ felony convictions.

In his statement, Padilla further slammed Kansas Secretary of State (and nemesis) Kris Kobach’s vice chairmanship as “proof that the ultimate goal of the commission is to enact policies that will result in the disenfranchisement of American citizens.”

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Alexei Koseff: 916-321-5236, @akoseff