Promising to protect voter privacy, the commission rerequested data from the states.
Promising to protect voter privacy, the commission rerequested data from the states.
As the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity renews its efforts to cull a trove of voter data from all 50 states, promising that no personally identifiable information would be exposed, its vice chairman, Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, argued in a court filing against disclosing documents he was seen holding during a meeting with Donald Trump last November. 

“The only information that will be made public are statistical conclusions drawn from the data, other general observations that may be drawn from the data, and any correspondence that you may send to the Commission” when responding to its questions,  Kobach said in a letter to the states just a few days after a court cleared the way. “Let me be clear, the Commission will not release any personally identifiable information from voter registration records to the public." 

With the exception of Arkansas, the states originally balked at proving the data requested by the commission, concerned that voter privacy would be compromised and that the information would be used to suppress votes. 

The commission put its efforts on hold after the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC), filed for a restraining order in a federal court in the District of Columbia, seeking to bar the commission from gathering data, prompting the commission to temporarily halt its efforts. But a judge denied the request saying EPIC hasn't proven harm. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has also filed a lawsuit against the commission, questioning the transparency of the commission chaired by Vice President Mike Pence. 

Kobach's promise to preserve voter privacy and ensure the security of the data has allayed concerns of some lawmakers like Colorado Secretary of State Wayne Williams who called it "a significant improvement" that would hopefully lure back voters in the state who had unregistered in protest.

“It's my hope that citizens who withdrew their registration will re-register, particularly once they realize that no confidential information will be provided and that the parties and presidential candidates already have the same publicly available information from the 2016 election cycle,” according to a statement issued by Williams.

Separately, Kobach has spurned a request by the ACLU to turn over documents related to Kansas voter laws, noting that it would stymie his efforts on the commission. 

In its legal quest to challenge Kansas's requirements that voters prove citizenship, the ACLU has petitioned a Kansas court to unseal documents seen in a photograph of Kobach and Trump and to reveal a proposed amendment to the 1993 National Voter Registration Act.

“It would undermine Secretary Kobach's interest in fulfilling his appointed duty and responsibilities on the Presidential Election Commission which include being able to advise the President privately on matters within the purview of the Commission,” according to court documents which suggested that those revelations "would hinder [Kobach's] ability to confidently advise the President.”