The Trump administration’s partisan effort to find nonexistent voter fraud took a dark turn this week when its misnamed Commission on Election Integrity asked for detailed information on every voter in the country.
Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, vice chairman of the committee, penned the letter asking for the data. He wants voters’ names, addresses, birth dates, party registrations, voting histories and the last four digits of Social Security numbers.
Some states refused the request. Others said they would comply. Some have remained silent.
The records are public with some important exceptions that vary among states. But all voters should be deeply troubled by Kobach’s unprecedented inquiry, made under the cloak of governmental authority.
We have no idea how the commission plans to use the information. It isn’t too far-fetched to worry Kobach wants the data to enable a national campaign of voter suppression and disenfranchisement. It could be the first step in repealing the motor-voter registration law or establishing a national voter file.
Republicans and conservatives should be outraged. For years, Missouri fought against a national identification program, fearing the federal government would use driver’s license data for nefarious reasons.
Where are they now? Imagine the right-wing ire if President Barack Obama had asked the states for personal information on every voter in America.
It would be helpful if privacy-obsessed Republicans would at least attempt to be intellectually consistent on this issue. Sadly, Missouri Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft has indicated he’ll gladly send Kobach all the info he wants.
Will the commission keep the information secure? Kobach famously met with then President-elect Donald Trump carrying sensitive security documents in full view of cameras and reporters. Then, of course, he misled a court about the documents, costing him a $1,000 fine.
We learned last month that information on 200 million voters was left exposed online for almost two weeks in 2016. Assembling voter information in one place would make hacking easier.
Finally, if Kris Kobach has enough time to help run a national investigation into voter fraud, advise states on immigration policy, represent himself in federal court and run for governor, he obviously lacks a sufficient workload in the state office he holds.
Kansans should ask if they’re getting what they pay for.
States should deny Kobach’s request. Widespread voter fraud is a fantasy, cooked up by Trump to convince Americans he really won the popular vote last year. He didn’t.