BOISE -- A request for extensive personal information about voters in every state is causing controversy across the country - and here at home.
Election officials in many states are pushing back against the request by President Trump's voter fraud commission, so KTVB wanted to verify where Idaho's secretary of state stands on the issue and whether your private voting information is still safe in the Gem State.
The Presidential Advisory Commission on Voter Integrity is asking for everything from voter history to Social Security numbers. Many Idahoans are wondering why the federal government needs access to private information, which is a concern the Secretary of State's Office in Idaho is acknowledging, while many support the President looking into allegations of voter fraud.
"There's reason here to question what they're doing," Idaho House Minority Leader, Rep. Mat Erpelding (D-Boise), said.
Idaho Secretary of State Lawerence Denney says white a request for voter information itself is not atypical, and specific parts of the state voter roll are public, this particular request from the federal government was of a unique enough nature that it bears additional review.
"The federal government typically, normally doesn't ask for it. In fact, they haven't asked for it [before]," Chief Deputy Secretary of State Tim Hurst told KTVB. "Voter registration and voting is a state responsibility."
A letter sent out June 30 requested elections officials in all 50 states provide voter data to the presidential commission investigating alleged voter fraud. Information pertaining to state voter registrations, including names, addresses, dates of birth, party affiliations and in some cases, the last four digits of Social Security numbers and driver's license numbers are being requested.
"A lot of people are concerned because they don't really know - and in fact, we don't really know - what this presidential commission is all about, is going to do," Hurst added.
"Once it leaves Idaho we don't know who has it, what they're going to do with it, and how they're going to use it," Rep. Erpelding said.
Hurst tells KTVB the state is interpreting this as a public records request under Idaho Public Records statutes.
"They haven't demanded it, they've asked for it," Hurst added. "They put in the words 'publicly available.' "
The Statewide List of Registered Electors (voter roll) is publicly available under Idaho law and elections officials in Idaho say it includes the following: first, middle, last, street address, mailing address, county, gender, age (not date of birth), telephone number if provided (optional), and party affiliation if declared of all currently registered voters in Idaho.
It also includes a record of which elections electors participated in, but does not include how they voted or who they voted for.
"Idaho's constitution guarantees everybody an absolutely secret ballot - is the wording it uses," Hurst said.
While additional information is requested in the letter from the presidential commission, Hurst tells KTVB the secretary of state doesn't plan on releasing registered voters' dates of birth, last four digits of Social Security numbers or driver's license numbers.
"Under our Idaho law it's not publicly available," he added. "As far as I know right now we're definitely not going to give out the confidential portion of it that we're required by law to protect."
"When you think about how consolidated that information is in a single database in Washington, D.C., being controlled by the federal government. That seems to be a real hacker's delight," Erpelding said.
Democratic legislators called for a meeting with Denney to talk about his stance and have a conversation about what the commission is planning to do with the data they're asking from Idaho. He plans to ask what the secretary of state is going to release and whether he is going to resist the information that is "really a threat to my and my constituents' privacy."
"We're very concerned. We've been hearing from constituents in our districts and across the state on every level of the spectrum - from conservative Republicans to Democrats - that the federal government is really creating an overreach here of epic proportions," Erpelding added. "If it's public information and they can access it, I'm not opposed to it. I think the larger question is what are they going to do with it and why do they want to consolidate it into a single database in Washington, D.C.?"
The Presidential Advisory Commission on Voter Integrity requested states respond with information by July 14. Secretary Denney is working with Gov. Otter and the attorney general's office and says he doesn't plan on making a decision on what information he will release until that deadline. He says he intends to "continue to utilize that time to review what the appropriate and legally required response is..."
According to NBC News, as of Thursday, 45 states and the District of Columbia are either refusing to release data or give very limited information to Trump's commission looking into voter fraud: 19 states, along with the District of Columbia, have flat out declined to comply with the commission's request, citing privacy concerns; 26 states say they will only hand over information that is deemed public by their state laws; and five states have yet to receive a request for voter information.
In May, the 15-member commission was created by President Trump through an executive order.
- Chief Deputy Secretary of State of Idaho, Timothy Hurst
- Rep. Mat Erpelding (D-Boise), Idaho House Minority Leader
- Statewide List of Registered Electors
- Idaho Public Records Law
- NBC article (July 6, 2017)
- Denney says voting privacy still safe in Idaho (press release)
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