Donald Trump’s voting commission, led in part by notorious voter-suppression pioneers such as Kansas’ Kris Kobach, sent letters to every state in the nation last week, requesting full voter rolls, including the name, address, date of birth, party affiliation, last four Social Security number digits, and voting history for every voter going back more than a decade.
The move, not surprisingly, faced broad, bipartisan opposition – though the Trump administration prefers not to look at it that way. The White House issued a written statement yesterday, on Kobach’s behalf, that read in part, “While there are news reports that 44 states have ‘refused’ to provide voter information to the Commission, these reports are patently false, more ‘fake news.’”
We can certainly debate the semantics of the word “refused,” but Trump’s commission made a request for expansive amounts of information, and as of yesterday, officials in 45 states said they would either ignore the request or limit the responses to public data. There’s nothing “fake” about this.
But let’s not forget that Kobach’s letter wasn’t the only correspondence Trump World sent to states last week related to voting. The Huffington Post noted yesterday:
The DOJ sent the letter to 44 states last Wednesday, the same day the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity sent a letter controversially requesting personal voter information. The DOJ letter requests that election officials respond by detailing their compliance with a section of the National Voter Registration Act of 1993 (NVRA), which covers 44 states and was enacted to help people register to vote, but also specifies when voters may be kicked off the rolls. […]
Former Justice Department officials say that while there’s nothing notable about seeking information about compliance with the NVRA, it is unusual for the department to send out such a broad inquiry to so many states seeking information. Such a wide probe could signal the department is broadly fishing for cases of non-compliance to bring suits aimed at purging the voter rolls.
And given that the Justice Department’s letter was sent to states literally on the same day as the ridiculous “voter integrity” commission sent its letter to states, it’s hardly a stretch to see them as a coordinated Trump administration push.
The HuffPost quoted Sam Bagenstos, who served as the principal deputy assistant attorney general for civil rights from 2009 until 2011, saying, “When you see DOJ send a bunch of letters like this requesting information about compliance with the law, that’s usually a sign that they’re kicking an enforcement campaign into gear. It looks like what they’re doing is they’re laying the groundwork to file lawsuits against states that, in their view, aren’t kicking enough people off of the rolls.”
David Becker, the executive director of the Center for Election Innovation and a former DOJ lawyer, added this appears to be the first “broad-based fishing expedition into list maintenance compliance” since the National Voter Registration Act became law nearly 25 years ago.