(CN) – President Donald Trump’s commission on election integrity rolled into motion this week, prompting vice chair of the commission, Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, to send letters to all 50 states asking for extensive information on every registered American voter dating back to 2006.
A May executive order set up the commission, which is chaired by Vice President Mike Pence, with the goal to “promote fair and honest elections.”
Now, Kobach is seeking voters’ names, addresses, birth dates, Social Security numbers, voting histories and political affiliations on behalf of the commission.
Critics say the commission was formed in response to Kobach and Trump’s unsubstantiated claims that national elections are plagued by widespread voter fraud. Trump claims that 3 to 5 million illegal votes were cast for Hillary Clinton in the presidential election, but has offered no evidence to prove those claims.
Some state officials bristled at the receipt of the letters. Connecticut Secretary of State Denise Merrill said she would cooperate with the commission insofar as providing publicly available information “in the spirit of transparency,” but had reservations about its intended goals and working with Kobach.
“In the same spirit of transparency, we will request that the Commission share any memos, meeting minutes or additional information as state officials have not been told precisely what the Commission is looking for,” Merrill said in a written statement. “This lack of openness is all the more concerning, considering that the Vice Chair of the Commission, Kris Kobach, has a lengthy record of illegally disenfranchising eligible voters in Kansas.”
California Secretary of State Alex Padilla said he would not comply with the commission’s request.
“As Secretary of State, it is my duty to ensure the integrity of our elections and to protect the voting rights and privacy of our state’s voters,” Padilla said in a written statement. “I will not provide sensitive voter information to a commission that has already inaccurately passed judgment that millions of Californians voted illegally. California’s participation would only serve to legitimize the false and already debunked claims of massive voter fraud made by the President, the Vice President, and Mr. Kobach.”
Padilla joins others such as Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe and Massachusetts Secretary of State William Galvin in refusing the commission’s request.
Kobach, known for his championing of voter ID laws, is currently embroiled in a lawsuit with the American Civil Liberties Union over such laws in Kansas. He was fined $1,000 last week for misleading the court about the nature of a voter registration policies document he was photographed with in a November meeting with President Trump.
Late Thursday night, he asked U.S. Magistrate Judge James O’Hara to reconsider the fine, stating that the deception was unintentional and the result of poor editing.
Vanita Gupta, former acting head of the U.S. Department of Justice’s Civil Rights office, said in a tweet that “Pence and Kobach are laying the groundwork for voter suppression, plain & simple.”
Kobach utilizes the Interstate Crosscheck System in Kansas, a software program used by 30 states, that tracks people to identify voters registered in more than one state. The software has been criticized for its inaccuracy. A study published by Stanford last November showed that the system produced 200 false hits for every positive hit.
In an interview with the Kansas City Star, Kobach said the information he asks for would be used to produce more accurate study results.
“The idea is to have the best data possible,” Kobach said. “The purpose of the commission is to quantify different forms of voter fraud and registration fraud and offer solutions. And so you have to have this data in order to do any meaningful research.”
Kobach said the information would not be publicly shared and used only for the commission’s research.
The letter asks state officials to submit the information by July 14.
Calls made to Kobach and the ACLU after business hours Thursday were not immediately returned.