Colorado Secretary of State Wayne Williams on Wednesday stood by his decision to turn over publicly available voter information to the Trump Administration.
“We will follow the laws of our state,” Williams said at a press conference.
A White House commission has asked for data from all 50 states in an effort to investigate supposed voter fraud. While producing no evidence to support his claims, President Trump has repeatedly alleged the existence of widespread voter fraud.
Williams cheered the commission in his initial press release, while other secretaries of state were far more critical. “They can go jump in the Gulf of Mexico,” Mississippi’s Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann said.
Voters’ rights groups worry that Trump’s commission is a thinly veiled attempt to suppress voters. That includes Nathan Woodliff-Stanley, executive director of the ACLU of Colorado.
“Williams should refuse to cooperate in every way possible, providing nothing that is not required by law, objecting to the purpose of this request, and making it no easier than necessary for [Vice President Mike] Pence and [Kansas Secretary of State Kris] Kobach to assemble their database,” Woodliff-Stanley wrote recently.
What Data Is Publicly Available?
Many other secretaries of state have said they will give the federal government only data that is publicly available -- and that’s all Williams has promised as well.
In its letter to Williams, the White House commission specifically requested “publicly available voter roll data for Colorado.” This information is public under Colorado law and has been requested by the commission:
- Full names
- Residential and mailing addresses
- Year of birth
- Political party affiliation
- Which elections the voter participated in
- Voter status (active or inactive)
- Whether voter is in military or overseas
The state will provide the federal government with that information, Williams said.
— Allison Sherry (@allisonsherry) July 5, 2017
The commission also asked for the last four digits of voters’ social security numbers and the dates of birth, but Williams said that information is private and will not be provided. Colorado law also bans the disclosure of voters’ signatures (which are used to verify ballots), driver’s license numbers, and full social security numbers.
How a voter voted isn’t public -- and it isn’t even knowable, Williams said.
“We are prohibited by law from gathering that information. And we don't want to know how someone voted,” Williams said.
How Often Is This Data Requested?
Ballot initiative campaigns, political parties and media organizations in the state requested publicly available voter information several hundred times in the last election cycle, Williams said.
Colorado law prohibits Williams’ office and county election officials from favoring one requester over another.
“The secretary of state [and] our county clerks are not in the business of picking winners and losers in terms of who can get information,” Williams said. “Instead, we apply the same standard to everyone who asks.”
Can I Make My Public Voter Information Private?
Yes, there’s a system for that -- but it’s typically used by domestic violence victims. Colorado’s confidential voter program hides the address of voters who believe they, or immediate family member, would be “exposed to criminal harassment or otherwise be in danger of bodily harm” if their voter information is made public.
" 'I just don't want anybody to know' is not a sufficient reason" to enroll in the program, Williams said.
If you think you qualify (you’ll have to sign an affidavit to that effect, though it likely won’t be fact-checked), contact your county clerk to sign up. If your aim is to keep your information out of the Trump administration’s hands, you’ll want to act quickly. Williams said his office plans to submit voter data to the feds by July 14.
CPR’s Allison Sherry contributed to this report.