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Trump's Request For Voters' Personal Information Draws States' Ire


It's pretty rare to get bipartisan consensus on anything these days. But both Republican and Democratic state legislators have found common ground. What's bringing them together is a request made by the White House last week for personal information about American voters. The Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity asked states to submit the data as part of an investigation into voter fraud. And while some states say they will comply with the request, at least 22 other states have partially declined or said outright, no way. Joining me now is Myrna Perez. She leads the Voting Rights and Elections project at New York University's Brennan Center for Justice. Thanks so much for being with us.

MYRNA PEREZ: Good morning.

MARTIN: What exactly is the commission asking for - what kind of data?

PEREZ: The commission is asking for a broad, expansive and burdensome amount of data. The one that is getting a lot of people up in arms is the individualized information that they want on voters. They're requesting the last four digits of Social Security number. They're asking people's voter history since 2006. They're asking their military status. But there's these - also these other pieces that are not likely to be in possession of the secretaries of states who received this request - things like what convictions for election crimes have occurred in the state since November of 2000.

And then there's all these thought pieces about, you know - what sort of federal law should we pass? This is the kind of information that it - had it been issued through a public records request, it would have not been able to be complied with in the amount of time that they gave it. It really put the secretary of state in an awkward position because some of them have state laws that wouldn't permit this kind of information to be shared...

MARTIN: Even in the state of Kansas, which is the home state Kris Kobach, who leads the commission.

PEREZ: Right. Yeah. No, that's right. That's right. That's totally right. And then, it's getting - we're hearing from voters. And it's getting really hard to explain to people, like, why some politician in Kansas is asking for the last four digits of their Social Security number and, you know, what they've been voting on since 2006.

MARTIN: Although, the administration argues that a lot of this data is publicly available. And so even the president...

PEREZ: That doesn't answer the legal question, though. I mean, that's right. You know, if you or I went into one of these states for public inspection and made a formal request and agreed to all the terms of usage and wrote a check for it - we'd have access to some of it. But many of these states have laws prohibiting how this information can be used. Sometimes, some of them make them sign oaths saying it won't be used improperly. So once he gets this data and makes it public - as he has indicated that he would - it's going to be next to impossible for states to enforce their own laws. And so it doesn't make any sense that something that somebody could publish, if they got it directly from a secretary of state's office in a particular state, is suddenly out for grabs from everybody just because, you know, some politician in Kansas wants it.

MARTIN: And some secretaries of state in certain states are questioning the underlying motives for this in the first place.

PEREZ: Right. I mean, I think this is an issue where they're hoping to get a bunch of data. They're going to use it in a skeptically - in a skeptical way, in a methodologically dubious way. And it's going to somehow get morphed into a bunch of alt-facts and junk science and get turned into some sort of justification for federal law that is going to suppress voters and make it harder for eligible Americans to cast a ballot.

MARTIN: Myrna Perez is the deputy director at the Brennan Center. Thanks so much for your time this morning.

PEREZ: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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