Rhode Island Joins List Of States Defying Bogus ‘Election Integrity’ Commission

Rhode Island Gov. Gina Raimondo speaks during a conference of New England's governors and eastern Canada's premiers to discuss closer regional collaboration, Monday, Aug. 29, 2016, in Boston. (AP Photo/Elise Amendola)
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June 30, 2017 2:06 pm
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The governor of Rhode Island said Friday that the state will not comply with a request from President Donald Trump’s shady “election integrity” commission that all 50 states hand over sensitive voter information to the federal government. The state would, she said, share publicly available information.

“No,” Rhode Island would not comply with the government’s full request, Gov. Gina Raimondo (D) said in an interview on MSNBC. “First of all, I think this is an alarming request. I don’t know where it’s coming from. We know that voter fraud is not widespread.”

“Our secretary of state last night put out a statement saying that we won’t be complying and we’re only going to share information which is otherwise publicly available,” she continued. “And I support her in that position.”

Kobach requested that states hand over a slew of information including the last four digits of voters’ Social Security numbers, felony convictions, military status and more.

“Kris Kobach told the Kansas City star — he’s the one running this for the administration — that all voter data would be stored on secure government servers and cross-referenced against federal databases to weed out fraud,” MSNBC’s Peter Alexander said. “Do you have faith in the security of federal databases to have — if not in from your state, if you’re not going to comply — but all that private data of Americans?”

“There’s no reason to provide this data,” Raimondo said. “Again, we don’t know why they want this. There’s information that’s publicly available. We operate [an] excellent election system here in Rhode Island. It’s fair, it’s efficient, it’s accurate, and there’s no evidence of widespread fraud. So we are not going to comply with this. And as I say, I’m alarmed they are even asking for it. 

The commission, created in the wake of Trump’s still-baseless claim that millions of illegal votes cost him the popular vote in the 2016 to Hillary Clinton, is chaired by Vice President Mike Pence and vice chaired by Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach. Kobach is a vocal advocate for stricter controls on voting rights. 

California, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New York and Virginia have rejected the call for data outright. Connecticut, Indiana, North Carolina and Vermont — to name just a few states — have said they will only provide publicly available information to the government.

Read Rhode Island Secretary of State Nellie Gorbea’s full response to the election commission’s request, shared in an email with TPM from her office, below.

Our office has received two requests dated June 28, 2017 for voter registration information. One request is from the U.S. Department of Justice – Civil Rights Division asking for “information regarding the State’s procedures for compliance with statewide voter registration list maintenance provisions of the National Voter Registration Act and the Help America Vote Act.” As I told Rhode Islanders yesterday, we have been working to maintain the accuracy of our voter lists and I will share the great work we are doing with the U.S. Department of Justice.

The second request comes from the Vice Chair of the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity, Kris Kobach, who is also the Secretary of State of Kansas. Secretary Kobach was fined for misleading the courts in his own state of Kansas, where his attempts to disenfranchise Kansas voters have been overthrown by the courts. It is deeply troubling that he has been given oversight of this commission by the President.

We are reviewing Secretary Kobach’s request for information.

I will safeguard the privacy of Rhode Island voters and respond only with data that is already publicly available. I will not release social security information or any information that was requested by Secretary Kobach regarding felony status, military status, or overseas citizen information.

As Rhode Island’s Secretary of State, I will continue to make sure that elections are fair, fast and accurate and that we uphold federal and state law in our work.

-Rhode Island Secretary of State Nellie M. Gorbea

This post has been updated.

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