INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – As election officials from across the country departed Indianapolis Monday, they left an imprint on a growing political debate over personal voter data and claims of voter fraud as a new White House Commission is set to meet for the first time next week.
Secretaries of state still gathered late Monday morning for their final meeting unanimously passed a resolution reaffirming “states are responsible for protecting the integrity of their elections including the secrecy of the ballot, security of their election infrastructures and sensitive personal information included in the states’ voter rolls.”
"We want the president and the Congress to recognize we are the authorities who operate these elections on a day-to-day basis,” said Paul Pate, Iowa’s Republican Secretary of State.
Indiana Republican Secretary of State Connie Lawson was sworn in as the association’s president Monday, who is also one of 10 members of the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity.
“There was some real serious discussion amongst both parties,” Lawson said.
State election officials nationwide are being asked to provide the White House commission a list of personal voter data that is “publicly available” which includes information like a voter’s name, address, date of birth, political affiliation and last for digits of their social security number.
“My position is well-known,” said Alison Grimes, Kentucky’s Democratic Secretary of State. “I’m not going to put their information at risk out there in the public domain until there’s further discussion about a task force many people don’t even know why they’re coming together, on what grounds, what basis they need such data.”
The panel, being led by Vice President Mike Pence, is charged with investigating claims of voter fraud, after President Donald Trump claimed illegal voting cost him the popular vote in the 2016 election.
“I have promised each of these secretaries in our meetings that my conduct in the commission will be a conduct that will represent all of us to the best of my ability,” Lawson said. “Once the commission meets, I think they’ll have more confidence in what the commission is set out to accomplish. Unfortunately it got off to a little bit of a rough start.”
State election officials are varied in their response to the request thus far, responses that include a rejection of the request to publicly vowing only to release part of the information requested.
But a number of election officials that spoke in Indianapolis over the weekend cautioned they’re bound by their own state law in what information can be made public and what can’t.
Election officials also spent considerable time being briefed by federal authorities, including from the FBI and Department of Homeland Security, on cyber-security and potential attacks on the nation’s election systems.
Over the weekend, in a series of tweets President Trump appeared to propose, and then back away from, the idea of working with Russia to create a “cyber security unit” to guard against election hacking.
“I’m shocked,” Lawson said in response. “I don’t understand his statement. I will just tell you my focus is increasing the American confidence in the elections.”