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Kobach Defends Request for Voter Data

Kris Kobach defended his attempt to obtain a nationwide collection of voter information in both a court filing and a White House statement as criticism continued to grow over his request.

By Hunter Woodall

Kris Kobach defended his attempt to obtain a nationwide collection of voter information in both a court filing and a White House statement as criticism continued to grow over his request.

Kobach recently sent a letter to all 50 states asking them to provide a bevy of voter data to a commission formed by President Donald Trump.

Some elected leaders in states across the country have declined or criticized Kobach's request.

On Wednesday, Kobach slammed back at his critics in a statement released by the White House.

"Despite media distortions and obstruction by a handful of state politicians, this bipartisan commission on election integrity will continue its work to gather the facts through public records requests to ensure the integrity of each American's vote because the public has a right to know," Kobach said in the statement.

Kobach, the Republican Kansas secretary of state, serves as the vice chairman of the commission. In the letter, he asked the states to give the commission the names of all registered voters along with their addresses, birthdays, the last four digits of their Social Security numbers, voter history and other personal information.

CNN reported this week that "forty-four states and the District of Columbia have refused to provide certain types of voter information."

The Washington Post also reported Wednesday that at least 44 states have said they will provide just some or none of the requested information, according to interviews, public statements and media accounts.

Kobach himself told The Star last week that Kansas wouldn't give the Social Security information to the voter commission at this time, though the state will share other information.

In the White House statement, Kobach said 14 states and the District of Columbia have refused the request but "20 states have agreed to provide the publicly available information."

"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,' " Kobach said in the statement.

The statement came out around the same time Kobach answered a privacy group's lawsuit to halt the voter information request.

In a new court filing, Kobach said that to his knowledge as of Wednesday, "no Secretary of State has yet provided to the Commission any of the information requested in my letter."

The suit was filed in federal court this week by the Electronic Privacy Information Center. The Washington, D.C.-based group asked the court for a temporary restraining order to halt the collection of personal voter data.

"The request for partial Social Security numbers that are often used as default passwords for commercial services, coupled with the commission's plan to make such information 'publicly available,' is both without precedent and crazy," the group said in a Monday court filing.

Kobach's legal response Wednesday accompanied a court filing from attorneys with the U.S. Department of Justice arguing that the court should deny the privacy group's request that the commission stop collecting the voter data.

Lawyers with the Justice Department said in their filing Wednesday that EPIC "alleged no facts that the organization itself has suffered any injury, nor did it identify a single member who is suffering injury."

EPIC also says in the suit that the commission failed to prepare and publish a Privacy Impact Assessment regarding the information.

The Department of Justice attorneys answered that the commission is not required to perform the assessment.

Kobach also said in his statement that he asked for data "if publicly available under laws of your state."

He said the data he was requesting would be secure if submitted by the states and that voter roll data would not be released to the public by the commission.

"The commission intends to maintain the data on the White House computer system," Kobach said in the filing.

(c)2017 The Kansas City Star (Kansas City, Mo.)

Caroline Cournoyer is GOVERNING's senior web editor.
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