Amid fears that the White House voter fraud commission’s request for state voter data could expose sensitive information, some voters are taking themselves off the rolls.
One big city elections director wrote in alarm this week that the request “is causing voters to disengage.”
The troubling news underscores how the commission could end up suppressing voting even without spurring any changes to law or policy. By its mere existence, the commission’s controversial data request could chill voter participation by creating fear about being registered at all. In much the same way, there’s evidence that strict voter ID laws reduce voting even among those who may have acceptable ID, simply by generating confusion around the process and intimidating people who may not fully understand it.
There are reports from Colorado, Missouri, Florida, and even Kansas—where the commission’s de facto director, Kris Kobach, serves as secretary of state — of voters asking for their registrations to be cancelled. The scale of the trend isn’t known, but it’s a near certainty that it’s happening in other states, too.
Amber McReynolds, the elections director for the city and county of Denver, told The Daily Democracy that since July 3, over 600 people had asked to be taken off the rolls — about a 3000 percent increase over the previous week. Another 250, she added, had asked to have their records made private, something Colorado allows.
“This has created a lot of confusion, a lot of concern among voters,” McReynolds said.
In an op-ed for The Denver Post that appeared Monday, McReynolds wrote: “The effect of the request to states for voter data from the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity is concerning because it is causing voters to disengage.”
On June 29, the White House commission asked all 50 states to provide it with voter data, including birth dates and social security numbers. Over the next few days, privacy and good government advocates, as well as independent election administration experts, raised serious concerns about the request, and called the commission’s procedures for handling the data inadequate. The commission has said the data will be overseen by a staffer for Vice President Mike Pence, who chairs the panel.
Many states have said they won’t comply with the request. This week, the commission agreed to put the request on hold while it awaits a ruling by a federal judge in a lawsuit filed by an online privacy group.
In her op-ed, McReynolds also wrote that the number of calls and emails her office had received from concerned voters had skyrocketed in the previous week.
One voter wrote: “Due to the decision to have my information given without my permission, I would like to have the form sent to me that allows me to unregister as a voter. Please send ASAP.”
Like many states, Colorado has said it will give the commission publicly available voter data, as required by law, but won’t hand over confidential data.
Susan Bucher, the elections director for Palm Beach County, Florida, told a local TV station that her office got dozens of calls each day last week from voters asking to be removed from the rolls. Boucher said many voters didn’t know that much of the data is already publicly available. And she said there’s no evidence anyone has actually unregistered.
In each of four different Utah counties, elections directors said somewhere from a handful to a dozen voters have asked to have their records made private, a Utah radio station reported.
Meanwhile, the elections director for Johnson County, Kansas told The Kansas City Star he knows of at least two people there who told his office: “Please cancel me.”
And a voter in Cass County, Missouri, told the same paper she too had de-registered.
“I would rather have this administration not touch anything of my voter history,” Renee Leon said. “If my sacrifice is that I may not get to vote, I would be willing to pay that price.”
Late Update, 7/14: In an interview with Breibart News, Kobach responded to the reports of people canceling their registrations, saying some may not be eligible to vote, and others may just be performing a “political stunt.”
“It could be a number of things. It could be, actually, people who are not qualified to vote, perhaps someone who is a felon and is disqualified that way or someone who is not a U.S. citizen saying, ‘I’m withdrawing my voter registration because I am not able to vote,’” he said. “It could be a political stunt – people who are trying to discredit the commission and withdrawing temporarily because they are politically active but planning to get back on the voter rolls before the election next November.”
Election administrators: Are you hearing from voters who want their registrations cancelled because of the commission’s data request? If so, let us know.
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