Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach (R), the vice chair of President Donald Trump’s commission on election integrity, on Thursday brushed off reports that people across the country are deregistering to vote amid his efforts to gather voter information, saying the requests to be removed from the rolls might just be a “political stunt.”
Election officials in Colorado, Florida and North Carolina have said voters are calling to inquire about deregistering after Kobach requested voter information from all 50 states. Amber McReynolds, the director of elections for Denver, said her office saw a 2,150 percent increase in withdrawals from July 3 to July 7 compared to the previous week.
Local election officials have tried to talk people out of deregistering, but Kobach ― the de facto leader of the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity, whose chair is Vice President Mike Pence ― suggested the people trying to get off the rolls shouldn’t actually be there in the first place.
“It’s interesting. It could be a number of things. It 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 saying, ‘I’m withdrawing my voter registration because I am not able to vote,’” he said in an interview on Sirius XM. “It could be a political stunt ― people who are trying to discredit the commission and withdrawing temporarily because they are politically active but planning to get back on the voter rolls before the election next November.”
McReynolds said it’s “unfair and disingenuous” to accuse concerned voters of carrying out a political stunt. She said her office checks the felon status of voters when they register, and said she wasn’t aware of anyone withdrawing their name because they weren’t a citizen.
“Voters have told us directly their withdrawals are due to privacy concerns,” she said in a Twitter message. “Based on voter comments we have received, the scenarios presented by the secretary are not accurate and additionally withdrawals have happened across party affiliations.”
Kobach has a history of exaggerating the number of illegal voters on the rolls. In Kansas, he claims thousands of non-citizens could be on the voter rolls, but a federal appeals court said last year that was “pure speculation.”
There was widespread backlash after Kobach sent a letter to election officials across the country asking them to submit publicly available voter data to the commission. On Monday, the commission requested that states hold off on submitting data amid a pending privacy lawsuit against it.
Michael Ertel, supervisor of elections in Seminole County, Florida, told HuffPost he’s spoken to about 20 people seeking to deregister and tried to talk them out of doing it. Ertel said he doesn’t think people are deregistering as a stunt. Rather, he said, voters have been scared by different groups into thinking sensitive voter information would be released.
“Based on my conversations with the people, the actual conversations with registered voters, it is a lot of people who have been whipped into a frenzy of fear,” he said. “When folks are scared, they want to do something and they want to take control. If they think that something is happening that’s untoward, they want to take control. One thing they think they can do to take control is to cancel their voter registration and then reregister closer to the election.”