Hand over all the information you have on every voter in your state, went the demand from President Trump’s newly appointed Advisory Commission on Electoral Integrity. That included a list of all registered voters’ names, birth dates, party identification and voting histories, plus the last four digits of all voters’ Social Security numbers.
So much for the old-fashioned secret ballot.
So sweeping was the demand that even the commission’s vice chairman and de facto chief — the man who signed the order — said his own state of Kansas would refuse to turn over Social Security numbers to his own commission.
What would the federal government do with all this information, if it were turned in? The commission and that vice chairman, Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, won’t say. But it’s common knowledge that should the data get into demonstrably hackable federal computers, it would be fair game for almost anyone from corporations to foreign powers like Russia, which already has an alleged history of stealing electoral data bases.
This was the second major assault by Trump’s administration on citizen privacy, the first coming when his appointees to the Federal Communications Commission announced in May they plan to rescind previous “net neutrality” rules that prohibit commercial use of customer information held by internet service providers.
California was the first state to react to the voter information demands, with Secretary of State Alex Padilla announcing the day the demands arrived that he would fill none of them. Within a week, he was joined by the top voting officials of 43 other states, including many considered rock-ribbed Republican red, like Kentucky, Indiana and Mississippi.
Said Padilla, “I will not provide sensitive voter information to a commission that has already inaccurately passed judgment that millions of Californians voted illegally (in 2016). California’s participation would only serve to legitimize the false and already debunked claims of massive voter fraud made by the President, the vice president and Mr. Kobach.”
His GOP counterpart in Mississippi was more colorful. “They can go jump in the Gulf of Mexico and Mississippi is a great state to launch from,” said Delbert Hosemann. Louisiana Republican Tom Schedler added that, “The commission has quickly politicized its work by asking for an incredible amount of voter data that I have (always) refused to release.”
Fortunately for voters who could be at risk for identity theft if Padilla and his colleagues complied with commission demands, Kobach’s group (formally headed by Vice President Mike Pence) has no subpoena powers and there is no known penalty for not cooperating. Maybe that’s why Kobach is refusing one of his own demands. It is also true that the Constitution gives each state the power to conduct its own elections.
But Padilla was probably correct, too, in guessing that Kobach & Co. have already decided what their report (due in mid-2018) will say. He’s the one who spurred Trump to claim that his loss of the popular vote to Hillary Clinton last year was solely because of illegal immigrant voters.
Neither Trump nor Kobach ever presented evidence for the claim of massive illegal voting, a charge Kobach has made for at least 10 years, since his days as a lawyer for the Federation for American Immigration Reform, long classed as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law center.
As secretary of state, Kobach has tried for years to ferret out illegal aliens voting in Kansas. Wikipedia reports that as of last spring, he had found six cases of illegal voting in his six-plus years in office; all involved double voting, none by undocumented persons.
As Padilla noted, there is no basis for or proof of claims that massive illegal immigrant voting occurs or ever has. Republicans first made the claim when Democrat Loretta Sanchez in 1996 ousted longtime Orange County GOP Congressman Robert Dornan, one of the biggest upsets ever in California politics. The GOP majority in the House investigated then for electoral irregularities, but found so few even it had to admit the phenomenon was insignificant.
The bottom line: This is one more form of California resistance to Trump administration attempts at actions that are political anathema here. Resistance has never been more justified than in this case.