More than 40 states are refusing to fully cooperate with President Trump's efforts to investigate alleged voter fraud, many of them bristling at lending credence to a debunked allegation, let alone divulging sensitive data of their voters to a federal commission.
As of Thursday, 46 states and DC were pushing back against the request for data on voters by the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity — and the blowback was coming from both sides of the partisan aisle.
Notably, that includes Kansas, where Secretary of State Kris Kobach, who is vice chairman of the president's commission, said his state will not be releasing all information to the federal investigation he himself is heading up.
“In Kansas, the Social Security number is not publicly available. … Every state receives the same letter, but we’re not asking for it if it’s not publicly available,” Kobach told the Kansas City Star in an interview Friday.
On Saturday morning, Trump weighed in on Twitter, criticizing the states refusing to provide information to the panel. He did not address the fact that the head of his commission had joined the ranks of those refusing to hand over voter information.
"My reply would be: They can go jump in the Gulf of Mexico, and Mississippi is a great state to launch from," Mississippi Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann, a Republican, said in a statement Friday regarding the commission's request. "Mississippi residents should celebrate Independence Day and our state's right to protect the privacy of our citizens by conducting our own electoral processes."
Kobach gave states on Wednesday about two weeks to hand over roughly a dozen data points of voters who participated in the 2016 election, including birthdates, the last four digits of Social Security numbers, voting history, military status, and information about felony convictions.
Trump, who lost the popular vote to Hillary Clinton, formed the commission months after he claimed, without evidence, that 3 to 5 million people voted illegally in the 2016 election.
An analysis by News21 of 2,068 alleged election fraud cases in the US found that they were extremely rare, citing just 10 cases of voter impersonation.
A study by the Brennan Center for Justice at the NYU School of Law, which looked at 42 jurisdictions, including those with the largest population of noncitizens, also found voter fraud was virtually nonexistent. Of 23.5 million votes surveyed, election officials referred an estimated 30 incidents of suspected noncitizen voting for further investigation, or about 0.0001% of votes cast.
Kobach's letter also asked states to share any evidence of fraud or election-related crimes, along with suggestions of how to improve election integrity, so that the commission can "fully analyze vulnerabilities and issues related to voter registration and voting."
But it's been a tough sell, particularly when it comes to sharing sensitive data, such as party affiliation and Social Security information.
The lack of any bona fide evidence to support Trump's premise for the investigation also prompted widespread backlash.
The states that have said they will totally refuse to comply with the request so far include California, Louisiana, Mississippi, Virginia, Kentucky, New York, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Mexico, Wyoming, South Dakota, Maryland, South Carolina, Tennessee, Delaware, and Illinois, as well as the District of Columbia.
"NY refuses to perpetuate the myth of voter fraud played a role in the our election," New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo tweeted Friday. "We will not comply with this request."
California Secretary of State Alex Padilla also argued that responding to the request would only legitimize debunked allegations.
"California's participation would only serve to legitimize the false and already debunked claims of massive voter fraud made by the president, the vice president, and Mr. Kobach," he said in a statement.
As of Thursday, the states that saying they would comply, but only as it pertains to publicly available information, included Rhode Island, Indiana, Georgia, Connecticut, Nevada, Ohio, Oklahoma, Utah, Vermont, Texas, Arizona, Alabama, North Carolina, Maine, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, Colorado, Iowa, Idaho, Montana, North Dakota, Alaska, Kansas, Missouri, New Hampshire, Oregon, Washington, Michigan, Arkansas, Florida, and Alabama.
"I will not release Social Security information or any information that was requested by Secretary Kobach regarding felony status, military status, or overseas citizen information," Rhode Island Secretary of State Nellie Gorbea said.
Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, meanwhile, said that while they would not turn over the voter data, the commission was welcome to purchase what was publicly available.
Many state officials have also argued that the commission's efforts would be better spent on upgrading aging voting systems and preventing outside hacks and meddling from foreign entities, such as Russia.
Representatives for Kobach's office did not immediately return a request for comment Friday.
Adolfo Flores is a national security correspondent for BuzzFeed News and is based in Los Angeles. He focuses on immigration.
Contact Adolfo Flores at email@example.com.
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