Wyoming is joining more than 20 states in refusing to turn over public voter data to a federal commission investigating the integrity of elections.
“I’m going to decline to provide any Wyoming voter information,” Secretary of State Ed Murray told the Star-Tribune on Monday. “It’s not sitting well with me.”
The Presidential Advisory Commission on Voter Integrity sent a request to all 50 states last week, asking them to turn over any publicly available personal voter data. Many state officials, from across the political spectrum, have declined to do so.
Murray said he was concerned that the request risked the privacy of Wyoming voters and may be part of an attempt to create federal regulations governing the electoral process, which he believes would contradict the role states have in running elections.
“Elections are the responsibility of states under the Constitution,” Murray said. “I’m wondering if this request could lead to some federal overreach.”
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Murray acknowledged that his reading of state laws governing voter privacy may differ from that of the federal commission but said that he wanted to err on the side of protecting the personal information of Wyoming voters.
The letter from commission vice chair Kris Kobach requested all publicly available voter data from every state, including names, addresses, birth dates, political parties, the last four digits of Social Security numbers and past criminal convictions. While items like name and party affiliation are public in Wyoming, much of the other information is not.
“Every state receives the same letter, but we’re not asking for it if it’s not publicly available,” Kobach told the Kansas City Star.
For example, while Kobach is the Kansas secretary of state, he told the newspaper that Kansas would not be releasing the last four digits of Social Security numbers for voters in that state because the information was not able to be publicly released.
The voting commission, which is officially chaired by Vice President Mike Pence, was created by President Donald Trump in May. After his election last fall, Trump alleged without evidence that millions of people had voted illegally. Efforts to regulate voting have become a partisan issue in recent years, with Republicans generally supporting efforts to restrict ballot access over fraud concerns and Democrats arguing that voter ID laws and similar measures are intended to stop low-income people and minorities from voting.
Trump criticized the states that have declined to provide the data requested last week, asking over the weekend, “What are they trying to hide?”
Numerous states are refusing to give information to the very distinguished VOTER FRAUD PANEL. What are they trying to hide?— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 1, 2017
Murray insists that Wyoming is not hiding anything. He said state elections are well-run and free from fraud or interference. Murray added that in conversations with other secretaries of state, he had not heard concerns about voter fraud.
“I have not experienced any secretary of state who has expressed any concerns or worry about fraud or some type of nefarious activity occurring that jeopardizes their respective election process,” said Murray, who said this spring that he is weighing whether to run for governor in 2018.