Secretary of State Questions Election Commission Request for Voter Data
Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill was in Indianapolis this past weekend for the National Association of Secretaries of State’s annual conference. He says President Donald Trump’s Election Integrity Commission was the center of conversations both in and out of conference sessions. “This is the thing that has dominated almost the entire discussion public and private from everybody in attendance,” he said Saturday.
The election commission has requested all 50 states give up full voter-roll data by July 14th. Most states have said they can’t or won’t comply fully. Alabama is among them, as Merrill noted in a statement following the request. “We certainly want to be supportive of the president and the administration as well as the commission that was created to study voter integrity,” Merrill said, “however there are certain things that have been requested that we cannot provide by Alabama law.” For instance, the state cannot provide the last four digits of a voter’s social security number, which was one item Trump’s election commission requested. Alabama can’t provide driver’s license information or individual ballot history; Alabama uses secret ballots.
But Merrill said the state wouldn’t provide that information even if it could. “We don’t want to put our people in a vulnerable position,” he said.
Merrill says Alabama will give the commission voter information that’s publicly available under state law – things like name, date of birth, race, and voting history. A person’s voting history shows when an individual first registered to vote, and the number of times a voter has participated in the electoral process over the last 10 years from municipal elections to general elections. It also shows whether they’ve participated in the Democratic or Republican primaries. The record doesn’t include ballot information that would indicate whether a person voted strictly Republican or strictly Democrat, Merrill said.
But all of that information will cost the commission, Merrill said. How much? “As of today, Alabama has 3,271,666 voters,” he said. Each electronic voting record costs a penny. “So that would mean that they would have to purchase that list for $32, 716.66.”
But even if the commission pays the fee, Merrill has concerns about the request. “I can’t understand why some of the questions that have been asked have been asked. It really does not make a lot of sense to me why they need to know if someone has always voted in the Democrat or the Republican primary, why someone may be on the voter rolls that has a criminal history? Because my question would be if the individual is a qualified elector — that is if they are a registered voter in the state of Alabama, why do you need to know if they’ve served time before?”
Merrill said he has other concerns about the intent behind the commission’s data inquiry.
“Why do you need to know someone’s social security number? Why do you need to know someone’s military service history? Why is that information important to the commission?”
The detailed voter data request is part of the Trump administration’s efforts to look into voter fraud. But Merrill says it doesn’t make sense given that there are mechanisms already in place such as the Interstate Voter Registration Crosscheck Program and the Electronic Registration Information Center to prevent voter fraud.
The American Civil Liberties Union released this map showing how other states have responded to the request for voter data.