On June 28th, the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity sent a letter to all state Secretaries of State requesting voter information. The commission is charged through a presidential executive order to study alleged voter fraud in the 2016 election. But many states are balking. Vermont Secretary of State Jim Condos initially said he would provide only publicly available information. This week, he changed his mind and determined he would not send any voter information to the commission.
The June 28th letter from Commission Vice Chair Ken Kobach requests public and private data.
In his response two days later, Vermont Secretary of State Jim Condos said he was bound by law to provide the state’s publicly available voter file. But on July 3rd he retracted that and said Vermont will not provide any information to the commission. “Our struggle is that this advisory commission has stated that whatever information is received by them will be made public. We have some pretty strict laws around this. And even the public files in order to receive it you have to sign an affidavit that says you will not use the file for commercial purposes. If they turn around and make it completely available to the public that would be available to commercial entities thereby going around our law. We also have another law that was just enacted here in Vermont which looks at what information we can provide federal organizations that are trying to build registration databases. So we’re looking at that law as well.”
Condos is consulting with his staff and the Vermont Attorney General regarding the state’s options. “It is our intent at this point in time to not provide them any information because we believe first of all that this is a bogus commission chasing a well-established myth of widespread voter fraud. People talk about voter fraud and they talk about people voting twice. We have a hard enough time getting people to vote once, never mind twice! To me the real voter fraud, the true voter fraud, is when any eligible American or Vermonter is denied that opportunity to cast a ballot.”
Vermont’s Secretary of State says he hasn’t received a response from the commission for further information and clarification of intent. Condos is in Indianapolis this weekend for the annual conference of the National Association of Secretaries of State. A member of the executive committee, he expects the commission request to be a dominant topic.
Vermont Digger political columnist Jon Margolis is the retired Chicago Tribune D.C. Bureau Chief. He says Condos was encouraged to defy the commission in part by voter backlash to the request. "He was also emboldened by the response from other Secretaries of State and that he wasn’t alone. So he felt that he could speak out even more forcefully. And I also think they’re looking at the polling, such polling as there is, and not taking any great risk in at least offering some objections to this request.”
There are reportedly 44 states refusing to provide voter data. But the Commission website states: “… these reports are patently false, more ‘fake news.’ At present, only 14 states and the District of Columbia have refused the Commission's request for publicly available voter information.”