Election 2020

California Secretary of State: ‘Not Hiding Anything’ from Trump’s Election Commission

President Trump, with Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach and Vice President Mike Pence, speaks at a meeting of the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity on July 19, 2017, in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building in Washington. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

WASHINGTON – California Secretary of State Alex Padilla told PJM that California is “not hiding anything” from President Trump’s commission on election integrity, emphasizing that he’s “protecting voting rights” by not complying with its request for voter data.

Citing privacy concerns, Rep. Anna Eshoo (D-Calif.) said she does not trust the federal government with state voter data.

“The president has held very tightly to protect his own privacy but he doesn’t see it as a value for anyone else. The information the commission is requiring and requesting is not to secretaries of state about the state of the election apparatus, how it could be improved and how we can make sure the systems are secure. He wants people’s Social Security numbers,” Eshoo said on a conference call with Padilla today.

“He wants to know their party registration. He wants to know the last time they voted. Now, maybe that’s something he wants for his re-election effort, but in the name of the federal government to take all that private information of individuals and keep it in one place for the federal government, I don’t think so,” she added.

Trump suggested that states refusing to comply with the commission must have something to hide.

“If any state does not want to share this information, one has to wonder what they are worried about, and I asked the vice president, I asked the commission, what are they worried about?” Trump said today. “There’s something, there always is.”

PJM asked Padilla for his reaction to Trump’s statement.

“As for our refusal to comply with the commission’s request, let me be abundantly clear, we’re not hiding anything. What I’m doing is protecting the personal information of voters in California and my colleagues collectively in protecting the personal information of voters across the country,” he said on the conference call.

“We’re protecting our voting rights because we know, based on who is in charge of this commission, what their end game is and how this data maybe used and abused to justify rolling back voting rights in the United States of America. We’re not worried about anything. We’re not hiding anything, Mr. President. What we’re doing is standing up for the privacy laws at the federal and state levels. We’re standing up for voting rights that were hard fought in the United States of America,” he added.

Padilla said his state is also “standing up for common sense cybersecurity practices” by refusing to send California voter information to the federal government.

“How they’re seeking to go about it is going to insert more vulnerability into our elections, and it’s pretty shocking in the commission’s first meeting today that went for several hours… not one mention throughout the commission’s deliberations today, not one mention of Russia’s interference in our election,” he said. “It’s not just the president who has his head in the sand on this, it’s now Secretary Kobach and his entire advisory commission. It’s increasingly clear and troublesome.”

Padilla said political campaigns are able to “access” state voter files for “outreach” efforts but that’s “not what this commission is doing.” He argued that complying with the commission could “open the door” to “federalizing some of these voter suppression laws” such as voter ID laws.

“We can’t sit idly by and watch it happen,” he said. “This allegation of massive voter fraud is simply not true, but it’s become the premise for this fraud commission.”

During the first meeting of the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity today, Vice President Mike Pence said the focus of the group is to “study the registration and voting processes used in federal elections” and to “explore vulnerabilities in the system that could lead to improper voting registration and improper voting.”

“We have no preconceived notions or preordained results. Our duty is to go where the facts lead and to provide the president and the American people with a report on our findings that can be used to strengthen the American people’s confidence in our electoral system,” said Pence, who is leading the commission.

Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, the vice chairman of commission, said many Americans have doubted “the integrity and fairness of elections” for a long time.

“It’s not a new issue at all. If you look at the polling data, it goes back decades. Public opinion has been consistent on this in that there is a substantial number of people who wonder if our elections are fair,” he said. “A 2014 survey showed that only 40 percent of voters thought elections were fair to the voters, which indicates that 60 percent either did not think so or were undecided. We owe it to the American people to take a hard, dispassionate look at the subject.”

Kobach said there’s never been a “nationwide effort” to “quantify and analyze the various forms of threats” to our election system’s integrity. He also addressed some of the privacy concerns among state leaders.

“This commission will have the ability to find answers to questions that have never been fully answered before and to conduct research that has never been conducted before, and that research will not be buried,” he said.

“We respect the voters’ privacy and will not identify individual voters with our voter roll data, but we will lay out factual findings and systematic problems that we can identify in our electoral systems. And those results, whatever they are, will be made public for the American people to draw their own conclusions from,” he added.

Eshoo, along with 75 other House Democrats, sent a letter to Kobach asking him to withdraw his request for state voter data as part of the commission’s investigation of potential voter fraud.

“At a time when the personally identifiable data of Americans is under constant attack from hackers and criminals seeking to engage in identity theft, the commission’s request to collect and centrally store the personal data of hundreds of millions of Americans poses risks that cannot be fully mitigated,” the letter read.