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Democrats warn Texas on voter information release

Friday, July 14, 2017 by Jo Clifton

The Texas Democratic Party warned Texas Secretary of State Rolando Pablos Thursday not to fully comply with a request from the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity and requested a copy of all communications between that commission and the Secretary of State’s office. Writing on behalf of the party, attorney Chad Dunn wrote, “Apparently the President of the United States believes that your office (as well as others around the country) have failed to ensure the integrity of the election process. A commission unilaterally commissioned by the President, in an unprecedented move, has sent letter requests to election officers around the country seeking confidential election information about the state’s citizens.” The purported reason is the massive election fraud claimed by President Donald Trump, but which is not supported by any data. Democrats want to know how much of the requested information Pablos intends to supply to the commission. The request includes voter names, addresses, dates of birth, Social Security numbers and party affiliation, as well as voter history back to 2006. The information is on hold, however, while a federal court decides whether to issue an injunction preventing the commission from gathering the information. A nonprofit group filed suit saying that release of the information would be an invasion of privacy and could give those intending to commit fraud access to information on many millions of Americans. Texas alone has 15 million registered voters. According to information released by the Secretary of State’s office, Texas does not intend to release either full or partial Social Security numbers, which is consistent with state law. In addition, the state does not track party affiliation, but the Secretary of State intends to release information on voter history, including which primaries voters have participated in. All of this information is available to the public. The state will not release individual dates of birth, however, those birthdays are available in a group request, with exceptions for certain law enforcement officers and judges. The Austin Monitor asked whether the Secretary of State intends to charge the presidential commission the same amount it would charge any person making the same public information request. According to Sam Taylor, a spokesperson for the office, the feds will have to pay the same fee as anyone else. He noted that anyone requesting the information for one specific year would have to pay about $1,500. The commission is asking for 11 years’ worth of information, so that will cost more, but the Secretary of State has not calculated that number, he said. Taylor said the court in Washington, D.C., is expected to rule on the request for an injunction next week. The American Civil Liberties Union has also sued the commission because of its failure to provide public information concerning its meetings. The first meeting was held by teleconference, according to the ACLU. “Our election process must be secure, fair and transparent,” said Sophia Lin Lakin, a staff attorney with the ACLU’s Voting Rights Project. “Yet the commission is conducting its work deep in the shadows, making it alarmingly suspect.”

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