New Jersey Must Reject the Request for Private Voter Information from the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity

The New Jersey Institute for Social Justice has sent a letter to Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno, the state’s chief election official, and Bob Giles, Director of the New Jersey Division of Elections, to urge them to deny the request of Kris Kobach, Vice Chair of the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity, to provide the Commission with the personal information of New Jersey’s 5.6 million registered voters, including sensitive information that is not, and should not be, made public. The Institute's letter can be found below. 

"The Commission was created by President Trump to perpetuate the repeatedly debunked myth of pervasive voter fraud," said Ryan P. Haygood, Institute President and CEO. "This request has the same shameful purpose as poll taxes, literacy tests, and voter identification laws: to deny people of color the right to vote."

Kobach recently requested information on all of New Jersey’s registered voters, including full first and last names, addresses, dates of birth, political affiliations, last four digits of each voter’s Social Security Number, voter history, active/inactive/cancelled status, and information related to felony convictions, registration in another state, military service, and overseas citizen status. Already 25 states have refused to comply with Kobach's request.

Kobach’s letter includes no explanation of how the Commission plans to use this data or how it intends to safeguard New Jersey voters’ personal information. Kobach seems to affirmatively disregard privacy concerns, writing that any documents provided to the Commission will also be made available to the public.

"New Jersey is under no obligation to comply with Kobach’s request,” said Institute Associate Counsel Scott Novakowski. "In fact, complying with this request may run afoul of privacy laws that protect against disclosure of certain personal information, and may dissuade New Jersey residents from registering to vote in the future.”

As Secretary of State of Kansas, Kobach advanced unsubstantiated claims of voter fraud to support voter suppressive policies. He has already lost multiple rounds of litigation challenging the anti-democratic policies he put in place in Kansas. Just last week, a federal judge sanctioned Kobach for his “patently misleading representations” and “deceptive conduct and lack of candor” in defending those policies.

“To be clear, the purpose of compiling this information is not to protect the 'integrity' of elections," said Haygood. "Its purpose is to disfranchise voters and to support amending the National Voter Registration Act to make it harder to register to vote and easier to remove eligible voters from the rolls. As we explain in our letter, New Jersey simply cannot countenance such an anti-democratic result.”

 

 

July 5, 2017

Lt. Governor Kim Guadagno
New Jersey Department of State
P.O. Box 300
Trenton, NJ 08625
Kim.Guadagno@sos.state.nj.us

Via Email and First Class Certified Mail

Dear Lt. Governor Guadagno:

I write on behalf of the New Jersey Institute for Social Justice (“Institute”) to respectfully urge you to deny the request of Kris Kobach, Vice Chair of the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity, to provide the Commission (“Commission”), with the personal information of New Jersey’s 5.6 million registered voters, including sensitive information that is not, and should not be, made public.

The Institute understands that Mr. Kobach recently requested New Jersey’s voter file, including full first and last names, addresses, dates of birth, political affiliations, last four digits of each voter’s Social Security Number, voter history, active/inactive/cancelled status, and information related to felony convictions, registration in another state, military service, and overseas citizen status.

We strongly urge you to deny this request for the following reasons.

First, Mr. Kobach’s letter includes no explanation of how the Commission plans to use this data or how it intends to safeguard New Jersey voters’ personal information. Indeed, Mr. Kobach affirmatively disregards these important privacy concerns by writing that any documents provided to the Commission will, in fact, be made available to the public. New Jersey is under no obligation to comply with Mr. Kobach’s request. Indeed, doing so threatens to run afoul of privacy laws that protect and regulate the use of voters’ personal information.

Second, the Institute has grave concerns about the purpose and objectives of the Commission and its leadership. The Commission itself was created by President Trump, at least in part, to perpetuate the repeatedly debunked myth of pervasive voter fraud. Such non-existent voter fraud, and the fear associated with it, has been used to justify voter suppression tactics that deny people, particularly people of color, the right to vote.

Mr. Kobach himself, as Secretary of State of Kansas, has repeatedly perpetuated false claims of voter fraud to advocate for voter suppressive policies.[1] Mr. Kobach has already lost multiple rounds of litigation challenging the destructive policies he put in place in Kansas. Several weeks ago, a federal judge sanctioned Mr. Kobach for his “patently misleading representations” and “deceptive conduct and lack of candor” in defending those policies.[2]

To be clear, the purpose of compiling this information is not to protect the “integrity” of elections, but rather to use deeply flawed matching techniques—such as Mr. Kobach’s Crosscheck system—and apples-to-oranges data comparisons to disfranchise voters and to support amending the National Voter Registration Act to make it harder to register to vote and easier to remove eligible voters from the rolls. New Jersey should be working to reduce barriers to participation and make voting easier, not furthering ill-conceived schemes that undermine access to the fundamental right to vote.

Our personal information should not be used to perpetuate the myth of voter fraud and to suppress votes. Already, 25 states have refused to give over the requested information. For your reference, here is a link to other states’ responses to the Commission’s request: https://www.brennancenter.org/latest-updates-fraud-commission.

We urge you to join those states.

Our votes are our voice and we must protect the rights of every voter to make their voices heard.

Sincerely,

Ryan P. Haygood

President & CEO, New Jersey Institute for Social Justice

 
Cc:
Bob Giles
Director, New Jersey Division of Elections
New Jersey Division of Elections
P.O. Box 304
Trenton, NJ 08625-0304
Robert.Giles@sos.nj.gov

 


________________________________

[1] See Ari Berman, The Man Behind Trump’s Voter Fraud Obsession, N.Y. Times, June 13, 2017, available at https://www.nytimes.com/2017/06/13/magazine/the-man-behind-trumps-voter-fraud-obsession.html.

[2] See Fish v. Kobach, Case No. 16-2105, Order of June 23, 2017 (D. Kan.), available at https://www.aclu.org/legal-document/fish-v-kobach-federal-order-sanctioning-kris-kobach?redirect=legal-document/fish-v-kobach-order.

 


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