Monday, September 24, 2018
Politics

Florida will comply with part of Trump commission's voter data request

Florida agreed Thursday to comply with a request from President Donald Trump's voter-fraud commission to provide extensive voter roll data — but only partially.

Florida Secretary of State Ken Detzner said the state will provide the data that are publicly available, but will not hand over any information on voters that is not public, including drivers' license numbers or Social Security information.

The Presidential Advisory Commission for Voter Integrity sent a letter on June 28 to state election officials asking them to hand over voter data by July 14. The commission requested a long list of information "if publicly available under the laws of your state," including voters' names, registration status, political party affiliation, voting history, partial Social Security numbers and other information.

Detzner replied in a letter to the commission Thursday.

"We are glad to continue following Florida's public records law by providing the requested information to you that is publicly available. Although most of the information you've requested is available to the public in Florida, we cannot fully comply with your entire request," he wrote. "Driver's license information and Social Security numbers are not, and cannot be provided under section 97.0585, Florida statutes."

The state will also not provide other exempt information such as voter data about law enforcement, judges or prosecutors and domestic violence victims.

Many Democratic politicians and candidates sent letters to Detzner urging him not to comply with the commission's request.

Republican U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen also raised objections.

"In 2016, Governor (Rick) Scott expressed optimism that our election process would be fair and, after the elections took place, there have been no allegations or evidence of voting fraud so I see no need to comply with this request," she said in a statement to the Miami Herald through a spokesman Thursday before Detzner announced his decision.

In the majority of other states, officials have said they won't comply with all or part of the request, CNN has reported.

Detzner was appointed by Scott, a Trump ally. The elections supervisor led a controversial effort to search voter rolls for noncitizens before the 2012 election, but the state scrapped it amid errors and complaints by county elections supervisors.

The letter from the commission also asks state election officials to weigh in on several questions, including whether they have any evidence about instances of voter fraud and convictions for election-related crimes since the 2000 election.

Trump has made repeated claims about massive voter fraud and election rigging, which PolitiFact has debunked again and again and again.

PolitiFact also recently rated False a claim by Fox and Friends co-host Ainsley Earhardt, who said: "5.7 million — that's how many illegal immigrants might have voted" in 2008. There have been some cases of noncitizens voting, but there is no evidence that it is in the millions.

The lack of evidence of any widespread voting fraud should have persuaded Florida not to comply with the data request at all, according to a Florida Democratic Party spokeswoman.

"Every election official should be making it crystal clear how absurd this 'election integrity' commission is," said Johanna Cervone. "It is grossly irresponsible for Secretary Detzner to even entertain a request from a commission that is propagating a blatant lie — widespread voter fraud does not exist. Do Rick Scott and Ken Detzner believe that 3 to 5 million votes were cast illegally in the last election? If that's what they believe, then they should make that clear to the people of Florida immediately."

Florida maintains a statewide voter database where a good deal of information is already public such as the names and addresses of most voters and their voter history, which shows when they voted, but not for whom they voted. News organizations, political consultants and political parties routinely make public records requests for the information.

Detzner said in his letter to the commission that the public portion of the database does not capture information on felonies.

But the state does routinely search to see if someone who is registered to vote has been convicted of a crime. That information is sent to local election officials, who have the ultimate decision on whether to remove someone from the voter rolls. Florida is one of a handful of states that does not allow former convicts to vote unless their rights have been restored by the state.

During his first term as governor, Scott came under fire for his push to trim the voter rolls of non-U.S. citizens. An initial voter purge initiated ahead of the 2012 elections found some ineligible voters, but it also wrongly identified U.S. citizens.

Information from the Associated Press was used in this story.

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