Election 2020

Mississippi GOP Official on Trump Panel's Voter Request: 'Go Jump in the Gulf of Mexico'

Voters in New York City cast ballots on Nov. 8, 2016. (Monica Jorge/Sipa via AP Images)

States are bristling at the federal government’s request for information on their voters as part of President Trump’s probe into voter fraud, with Mississippi’s GOP secretary of state declaring he’d tell the Presidential Commission on Election Integrity what to go do with itself.

“They can go jump in the Gulf of Mexico and Mississippi is a great state to launch from,” Delbert Hosemann said today, adding, “Mississippi residents should celebrate Independence Day and our state’s right to protect the privacy of our citizens by conducting our own electoral processes.”

Trump, who has claimed there were some three million non-citizens voting in the 2016 election, announced the commission in May, led by Vice President Mike Pence and vice-chairman Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach. The goal is to produce a report next year.

Other commission members are Indiana Secretary of State Connie Lawson, New Hampshire Secretary of State Bill Gardner, Maine Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap, former Ohio Secretary of State Ken Blackwell, and Election Assistance Commission member Christy McCormick.

“We can’t take for granted the integrity of the vote,” Pence said at the time of the commission launch. “This bipartisan commission will review ways to strengthen the integrity of elections in order to protect and preserve the principle of one person, one vote because the integrity of the vote is the foundation of our democracy.”

Hoseman said Mississippi hadn’t yet received an information request from the commission, but a copy had been forwarded to him from another secretary of state and requested “the full first and last names of all registrants, middle names or initials if available, addresses, dates of birth, political party (if recorded in your state), last four digits of social security number if available, voter history (elections voted in) from 2006 onward, active/inactive status, cancelled status, information regarding any felony convictions, information regarding voter registration in another state, information regarding military status, and overseas citizen information.”

Michael Haas, administrator of the Wisconsin Elections Commission, said some of the requested information is publicly available and “commonly purchased by political parties, candidates, researchers and other organizations.” But Wisconsin will not, by law, release birthdates or Social Security numbers.

Furthermore, Haas determined that the presidential commission doesn’t qualify to see confidential information because they’re not a law enforcement agency. If Pence and Kobach’s team wants to buy the publicly available voter file, the price tag is $12,500 — no fee waiver available.

California Secretary of State Alex Padilla was quick out of the gate to declare he “will not provide sensitive voter information to a commission that has already inaccurately passed judgment that millions of Californians voted illegally.”

“California’s participation would only serve to legitimize the false and already debunked claims of massive voter fraud made by the president, the vice president, and Mr. Kobach. 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,” Padilla said in a statement, adding that Kobach “has a long history of sponsoring discriminatory, anti-immigrant policies including voter suppression and racial profiling laws.”

Even Lawson, who’s on the commission, said the request would violate Indiana law.

“Under Indiana public records laws, certain voter info is available to the public, the media and any other person who requested the information for non-commercial purposes,” she said. “The information publicly available is name, address and congressional district assignment.”

So far, 24 states has said they won’t supply some or all of the requested information.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said his state “refuses to perpetuate the myth voter fraud played a role in our election.”

“We will not be complying with this request and I encourage the Election Commission to work on issues of vital importance to voters, including ballot access, rather than focus on debunked theories of voter fraud,” he said.

Ohio’s GOP secretary of state, Jon Husted, said confidential information about voters “will not be provided to the commission.”

“In responding to the commission, we will have ideas on how the federal government can better support states in running elections,” Husted added. “However, we will make it clear that we do not want any federal intervention in our state’s right and responsibility to conduct elections.”

Dale Ho, director of the ACLU’s Voting Rights Project, accused the Trump administration of “launching a nationwide assault on voting rights.”

“That Kobach — who has been successfully sued many times for voter suppression — is now asking for details on every single voter in the U.S. is deeply alarming and raises significant privacy concerns,” Ho said. “States are right to balk at turning over massive reams of personal information in what clearly is a campaign to suppress the vote.”

White House deputy press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders characterized the states’ resistance as “mostly a political stunt.”

“We’re asking — this is a commission that’s asking for publicly available data,” she said. “And the fact that these governors wouldn’t be willing to turn that over — this is something that’s been part of the commission’s discussion, which has bipartisan support, and none of the members raised any concern whatsoever.”