Some voters unregistering after Trump administration's data requests

Requests included name, birth date, felony convictions and more.

ByABC News
July 14, 2017, 6:20 PM

— -- Three thousand, three hundred and ninety-four Coloradans have withdrawn their voter registrations as of July 13, following the Trump administration’s request for voter data as part of the Commission on Election Integrity. An additional 182 citizens in the state have filed as confidential voters. Several other states have reported a similar uptick in citizens moving to keep their information out of the federal government’s hands.

Kris Kobach, the Kansas secretary of state and vice chairman of the commission, sent a letter dated June 28, asking officials in each state to provide personal records of voters -- including name, birth date, last four digits of Social Security numbers, party affiliation and felony convictions.

In an interview with Sirius XM’s Breitbart News Daily on Thursday, Kobach argued that voters who have unregistered “could be, actually, people who are not qualified to vote, perhaps someone who is a felon and is disqualified that way, or someone who is not a U.S. citizen.”

Kobach added: “It could be a political stunt people who are trying to discredit the commission and withdrawing temporarily.”

A total of 16 secretaries of state and Elections Board members spoke with ABC News about constituents’ responses to the request. Ten states noted at least a slight increase in citizen calls and emails, and some citizens inquired about the process to unregister to vote, or how to secure their personal information.

Amber McReynolds, the elections director for Denver, told ABC News of an "over 2,800 percent increase” in withdrawals from normal rates as of Thursday, and said that the withdrawal rate was “getting a bit worse.”

“Colorado is the No. 1 state in terms of registration rate across the country,” she added. As of July 14, Denver had tracked over 600 voter withdrawals, while a normal week sees eight.

In a statement, Colorado Secretary of State Wayne Williams said, “It’s my hope that folks who withdrew their registration will reregister, particularly once they realize that no confidential information will be provided and that the parties and presidential candidates already have the same publicly available information from the 2016 election cycle.”

Tina Prakash, deputy secretary of state for Connecticut, reported a similar response from her constituents. Of the 600 calls and emails the state office had received as of Monday, 96.3 percent of individuals were opposed to delivering any information, while 2.7 percent wanted to release publicly available data, and .5 percent supported providing the commission with full voter background information.

Tim Hurst, chief deputy secretary of state for Idaho, estimated a ”gazillion calls and over 500 emails” of voters asking to not share their confidential information.

Kobach has been called the "king of voter suppression" by the director of the American Civil Liberties Union’s (ACLU) Voting Rights Project, Dale Ho. The Kansas secretary of state was already involved in four lawsuits filed by the ACLU before the commission's letter was released, all of which dealt with voter disenfranchisement.

Two of the cases take issue with Kobach’s aim to create a dual voter registration system, where only some individuals would be allowed to vote in federal elections, according to the way they register to vote. The remaining suits push back against Kansas law that requires citizens to present a passport, birth certificate or comparable document in order to vote. The motion argues that this stands against federal motor voter law, which says states must have simple voter registration options at motor vehicle offices.

Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill noted the lack of information the state has been provided surrounding the commission's intent. Merrill noted Alabama has “received a number of emotionally charged responses from individuals who have made decisions based on information that has been presented to them in media.”

Merrill added that this is because constituents haven’t been presented the necessary data to “make an informed decision on their personal position,” because of the state's lack of knowledge “from the commission as a whole.”

Many states have said they will be partly complying to the commission's request by only providing data that is already publicly available. Vermont is one such state, and its secretary, Jim Condos, spoke to ABC News about his concerns regarding disenfranchisement.

“Typically I try to explain to people that if they do unregister, they are giving a win to Trump and his cohorts. Everybody agrees that what they’re trying to do is really about voter suppression,” he said.

Dawn Williams, director of elections for the Iowa secretary of state, commented that “about 215 calls had been logged” under the subject of citizens concerned that their personal information, including Social Security number, would be shared with the commission. However, Williams noted that when state officials explain that Iowa will not be releasing such sensitive data, most individuals leave less concerned.

Other states have reported much smaller volumes of voter inquiries. Erich Ebel, communications director for the Washington secretary of state, also spoke of a “handful” of constituents asking about disenrollment. However, Ebel noted that due to Washington state law, which requires the state to keep voter information in a public database for many years, unregistering may not actually secure personal data from the commission.

Delaware noted calls from concerned citizens, but no voters asking to unregister. Maine Director of Communications Kristen Schulze Muszynski similarly reported only a “sporadic” number of constituents asking to be taken off the voting rolls. Both states have said they refuse to comply with the commission's request.

West Virginia, Ohio, Michigan and Tennessee reported no sudden change in individuals asking to unregister. While Matthew McClellan, director of communications for the Ohio secretary of state, told ABC News that he was “not aware of increase or change in people asking to unregister,” both Michigan and Tennessee noted that at the state level there is no system in place to track this kind of information. However, both states did not know of any anecdotal information from county clerk offices regarding an uptick in constituent requests to unregister.

No state has yet to comply with the request in full, with 48 states either refusing to comply completely or only providing a portion of the information. Hawaii and Nebraska have not responded to the request. Critics of the letter include the ACLU and the advocacy groups Public Citizen, Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law and the Electronic Privacy Information Center. All four organizations have filed lawsuits against the commission's requests.

The suits cite the Federal Advisory Committee Act, which establishes standards for transparency and accountability by groups like the commission. Kristen Clarke, the president and executive director of the Lawyers’ Committee, said in a statement: “Through the Federal Advisory Committee Act, we are using an important statutory tool to expose and curb the illegitimacy of this commission.”

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