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Board Says Illinois Will Not Turn Over Its Voter Data To Trump Administration

By Stephen Gossett in News on Jul 6, 2017 11:22PM

CHICAGO, IL - MARCH 15: Voters casts their ballots at ChiArts High School on March 15, 2016 in Chicago, Illinois. Voters in Illinois, Missouri, North Carolina, Florida and Ohio vote in primary elections today. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)

Illinois will not hand over voter roll data as requested by a Trump administration panel, the Board of Elections announced on Thursday, saying that it does not have a publicly available roll.

After Trump's newly created Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity issued a letter asking that states provide voter data—including names, addresses, birth dates, the last four digits of Social Security numbers and voting history, stretching back ten years—the Illinois office was met with an influx of calls urging the Board to deny the request.

Kenneth Menzel, General Counsel of the State Board of Elections, wrote in a letter to Kris Kobach, Vice Chair of the PACEI, that the Commission's stated intention to make public any submitted data prevents the Board from turning it over, per the state's election-code safeguards.

The Code "protects the confidentiality and privacy of voter registration data, limiting its release to registered political committees for political purposes and to governmental entities for governmental purposes, subject to the restriction that voter data not be released to the public," Menzel wrote. "Your letter indicates that any information and voter registration data provided to the Commission will be made available to the public."

"In short, the State of Illinois does not have a publicly available voter roll," he added. "Therefore, our agency does not have any material responsive to the Commission’s request."

The Board of Elections had previously stated that it would delay its call until late August. But the amount of feedback from Illinois voters helped sway the decision to not wait. "We received an extremely high volume of calls and emails from people. They were very unhappy with idea that any data would be shared. So we thought it best to get at least that portion responded to earlier than later," Menzel told Chicagoist.

Illinois Senators had come out against the request, also. Sen. Tammy Duckworth urged the state SBE to deny the data ask. “Complying with this unlawful request would improperly reward the Commission for flagrantly breaking a longstanding Federal statute,” Duckworth said in a statement. “I strongly urge the IL SBE to exercise its legal right under the Paperwork Reduction Act and ignore the Commission’s unlawful information collection request.”

Sen. Dick Durbin tweeted his own, pithy response approving of the decision to deny the request:

The letter from Kobach—which the Illinois Board received late because Trump's Commission mistakenly sent it to the wrong department—also includes a list of seven questions, which ask about voter-fraud evidence and convictions for "election-related crimes," among other topics. Menzel said in the reply a "supplemental response" to those questions would come "at a later date."

More than 40 states reportedly said they would deny the Trump administration's request for the voter information. Kobach in a statement on Wednesday insisted that the voter information is publicly available and called the report that states would withhold the info "more 'fake news.'"

The administration claims that it wants to review the data to ensure that elections are held fairly. But critics see the request as the seeds of voter suppression efforts.