Sunday, July 16, 2017
President Trump's blue ribbon commission investigating potential voter fraud keeps getting in its own way. After running into widespread resistance from state election officials to turning over their records en masse, the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity has now essentially told us folks in Arkansas -- who had turned over what we legally could but nothing more -- oh, well, never mind.
It shouldn't surprise anyone that this commission is running in circles. It is charged with looking into a problem that doesn't really exist.
What’s the point: A commission assigned to investigate a problem that doesn’t exist wants your private voter records. That’s a bad idea.
Winning the Electoral College wasn't enough for Donald Trump. The fact that his opponent collected more popular votes than he did in November 2016 was so beyond his comprehension that the president made the uncorroborated allegation that he would have won the popular vote too had not so many illegal votes been cast. Despite study after study showing that the number of unqualified voters actually casting ballots is so minuscule that it couldn't affect a national election, President Trump didn't let up. He doubled down on his dubious claims by organizing this commission, which seems to be in charge of discrediting an election that Trump actually won.
The commission, in an attempt to look busy, asked individual states (who actually do the real work in national elections) to turn over all kinds of voter information -- names, addresses, party affiliations, even portions of Social Security numbers -- so it could examine it all in one digital place.
States objected for many reasons, not the least of which was protecting the privacy of individual voters. It also seemed like a bad idea to put such highly sensitive information all in one place, especially in a world where we know at least one of our nation's enemies was actively attempting to hack voting records not only in the U.S., but in other democracies. The fact that American election information is so diffused and kept in so many different places is actually a pretty strong deterrent to widespread election fraud.
Here in Arkansas, the agency in charge of voter information is the Secretary of State's office. Its response to the request was to collect the voter data that is always available to anyone under the state's Freedom of Information Act, and turn it over. The information requested by the task force that was exempt from disclosure was not provided.
That was the right call.
Let's stop and celebrate, just for a moment, that someone from the Arkansas Secretary of State's office both acknowledged and sought to fulfill a request for records pursuant to the FOIA. Some will tell you that's not always been the case with Secretary Mark Martin's office.
In this case, however, the kind of information that was released to the commission is routinely given to out to anyone who asks. Information the commission wanted that, by law, should be private remained so.
Alas, it was all for naught. We read in our own newspaper a few days ago that the task force didn't want those records after all, at least not until they can be stored in a manner more secure than the one they had.
Think about that for a moment: A commission charged with protecting the integrity of American elections asked for voter information to be delivered to them in a manner that, apparently by its own admission, wasn't entirely secure.
These people shouldn't be trusted with any private information, about voters or anything else.
Commentary on 07/15/2017
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