WASHINGTON ― Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach (R) is pushing back against the notion that most U.S. states are refusing to provide voter information to President Donald Trump’s election commission.
In a Wednesday statement released by the White House, Kobach blasted “media distortions” for the perception that the panel was facing resistance.
“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,’” said Kobach, who is serving as vice chair of the commission. “At present, only 14 states and the District of Columbia have refused the Commission’s request for publicly available voter information.”
Kobach added that 16 states are still reviewing what voter information they can appropriately release, while another 20 states have agreed to supply “publicly available” data to the commission.
Though he did not identify the media reports he took issue with, Kobach’s statement appeared to be referring to CNN, the Trump administration’s favorite media punching bag. The news outlet reported this week that that 44 states “refused to provide certain types” of voter information to the commission. Some states, for example, have said they cannot provide Social Security numbers, birth dates and party affiliations to the commission as requested out of concern for privacy.
While some states have unequivocally said they won’t comply, others have said they are legally barred from providing certain information to Kobach that he requested in the letter last week. Kobach himself, for example, is barred from providing the last four digits of a voter’s social security number. The letter does note the commission is seeking publicly available information.
Critics of the initiative, which was set up in the wake of President Trump’s unsubstantiated claims that millions voted illegally in last year’s presidential election, fear the data will be used to create an inaccurate picture of voter fraud. Observers have also raised concerns that a centralized voter databank could be more susceptible to hacking.
Despite bipartisan objections from election officials across the country, Kobach vowed Wednesday that the work of the commission would go on.
“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.
Sam Levine contributed to reporting.