Kris Kobach, the vice chair of President Donald Trump’s controversial election integrity commission, defended the committee’s request for state voter roll data on Wednesday and dismissed reporting about it as “fake news.”
The commission, which is tasked with investigating cases of voter fraud, came under criticism from dozens of state officials last week when it asked states to provide it with voter roll data, including details as personal as the last four digits of registered voters’ social security numbers. The commission indicated that it planned to publish the data.
Democrats, already critics of the commission, balked at the request, and some Republicans did, too, including the secretary of state of Mississippi, who suggested that Kobach jump into the Gulf of Mexico.
Kobach, the Republican secretary of state of Kansas and a vocal proponent of stricter regulations around voting, pushed back on the criticism in a statement released by the White House on Wednesday, insisting that the commission was only requesting that states release data “as permitted under their state laws.”
Responding to news reports that 44 states had declined to cooperate with the commission’s request, Kobach called that figure “patently false, more ‘fake news’” and said 14 states and D.C. had done so, while 36 others “either agreed or are considering participating,” with 20 of those agreeing outright.
“Despite media distortions and obstruction by a handful of state politicians, this bipartisan commission on election integrity will continue its work to gather the facts through public records requests to ensure the integrity of each American’s vote because the public has the right to know,” Kobach said.
Kobach’s statement seems to misinterpret recent news reports on the subject. CNN reported the 44 state figure, based on its own inquiries to state election officials, but did not claim that all 44 of those states had totally rejected the commission’s request. The 44 states cited in CNN’s analysis include those that said they would provide the commission with public data but not more sensitive information like partial social security numbers.
The commission was polarizing even before the voter roll data request incident. Since its creation was announced, Democrats have charged that it could be used to justify passing laws that make it harder for minorities and poor people to vote.
Voter fraud is exceedingly rare in the U.S., according to experts.
Before the White House formed the commission, Trump promoted the unsupported claim that millions of people voted for Hillary Clinton illegally in last year’s presidential election. Experts and local officials have said that claim is untrue.