Kobach complains about reports on voting commission

Kris Kobach
FILE - In this May 17, 2017, file photo, Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach talks with a reporter in his office in Topeka, Kan. Kobach, the vice chair of President Donald Trump's election fraud commission is taking issue with reports that a majority of states are refusing to comply with a request for voter information. Kobach says that news stories stating that 44 states have "refused" to provide voter information to the commission are "patently false."(AP Photo/Orlin Wagner, File)

WASHINGTON (AP) — The vice chair of President Donald Trump’s election fraud commission is taking issue with reports that a majority of states are refusing to comply with a request for extensive personal voter information.

Kris Kobach, the vice chair of the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity, said in a sharply worded statement Wednesday that news stories stating that 44 states have “refused” to provide voter information to the commission are “patently false” and “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,” he said.

The commission had requested that states provide it with a list of publicly available voter data, including names, voting history and other information, as permitted under state laws.

Kobach appeared to be referring to a CNN report, which counted a state as non-complying if it said it would not or could not provide every piece of information the commission requested. States have different rules regarding what information can be made public, and many states have agreed to provide some information, but not other data, citing those restrictions.

Indeed, The Associated Press has found that no state so far has said it would provide all the information requested, including Kansas, where Kobach is secretary of state.

Kobach said that, so far, 20 states have agreed to comply with the request, while 16 are reviewing what information they can release. Only 14 states and the District of Columbia, he said, have refused the request outright. He said the commission will use public records requests to obtain data from states that won’t provide.

The AP’s own review has found that 26 states have said they will provide the commission with some information, but that parts of what was requested are not considered public information and would not be forwarded to the commission.

States have different definitions of what’s public and what’s private. Most say even partial Social Security numbers should not be shared. Some say they won’t provide other details including information on voters’ military service, felony records or which elections they participated in — either because it’s private or because the states don’t track that information.

The AP’s count is consistent with Kobach’s in finding that 14 states and Washington, D.C., have said they won’t comply at all. Some officials have cited citizens’ privacy, while others, including the secretaries of state in California and Kentucky, have said they object to the premise that there was widespread voter fraud in last year’s election. It was this premise that prompted Trump to form the commission. Past studies have found that voter fraud is extremely rare.

The states denying the requests entirely are Arizona, California, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Mississippi, New Mexico, New York, South Dakota, Tennessee, Virginia and Wyoming.

Another 10 states have either said they have not received the request or have not decided what to do about it.

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Mulvihill reported from Cherry Hill, New Jersey.