Setting the Record Straight on States Compliance With Voter Fraud Data Request

Vice President Mike Pence and Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach (R-Kansas) have denounced the media’s coverage of how many states are complying with the Election Integrity Commission’s request for voter information from the 50 states and the District of Columbia. While the reporting hasn’t been incorrect, as denounced by the president as “fake news,” it can seem misleading.

The issue, it seems, is the difference between much of mainstream media reporting that 44 states will not be providing the Election Integrity Commission with all of the voter data requested versus the White House’s report that 36 states are complying, at least in part, with the commission’s request for voter data.

Pence and Kobach took issue with the reporting of the statistic that 44 of the 50 states and the District of Columbia are not going to comply with the voter fraud panel’s request for personal information on their registered voters, dubbing the number and its intent as inaccurate. Kobach did so in a July 5, 2017 statement released by the White House in his position as the panel’s vice chair, with Pence, who serves as the panel’s chairman, taking to Twitter that same day with a message of his own:

In fact, both mainstream media and the Election Integrity officials are saying the same thing, just in different ways: Both the statement that 44 states will not be providing all or some of the registered voter data requested by the advisory commission, referred to as the Voter Fraud Panel by President Trump on Twitter, and the statement that 36 states have agreed to consider providing voter data to the commission are true. To call one “fake news” and the other “real news” is inaccurate.

The most important point in the two factual statements is that there are states who are considering making at least some of their publicly available data available to the commission. Some are doing so without voiced opposition to the process, while others have some reservations about doing so, but are willing to comply as far as their state laws about such information will allow them to.

At present, 15 states and the District of Columbia have refused to comply with the panel’s request for voter information at all, citing various reasons, according to the National Association of Secretaries of State: Arizona, California, Connecticut, Delaware, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Mississippi, New York, South Carolina, South Dakota, Virginia and Wyoming.

Related Reading: Do We Call It the Election Integrity Commission or Voter Fraud Panel?

Charles Stewart, a MIT professor, has expressed concern that the resistance narrative that accompanies the request for and response to voter data gathering is clouding underlying issues such as voter privacy overall and election administration by focusing on pro-Trump versus anti-Trump. Stewart would prefer that everyone take a step back before the bickering makes running fair elections in the future even more difficult. Stewart explained:

“Really important issues here are becoming tied up in, I think, the big soup of ‘you’re either for Trump or you’re against Trump and that’s all we now care about. There are legitimate questions about how best to assess how well the states do run their list maintenance operations. To turn this episode into one of the mean Kobach commission against the brave election officials obscures what I think is an important public policy question.”

Nearly from its outset, but without question since Vice Chair Kris Kobach sent the now well-known letter requesting voter data from the 50 states and District of Columbia, the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity has been a polarizing issue. Maybe, as Stewart suggests, both sides can begin to work together toward an outcome that benefits voters and the voting process throughout the nation.

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