Election officials gathering in Indianapolis ponder White House request for voter data

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INDIANAPOLIS – As secretaries of state from across the country gather in Indianapolis  for their annual conference this weekend, privately they’re spending a good amount of time debating a serious request from the White House that has resulted in varying opinions and restrictions within their own state laws.

“Count me as someone who is concerned about why this information is being put together in a central place,” Denise Merrill said, Connecticut’s Democratic Secretary of State.

State election officials nationwide are being asked to provide a new 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.

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 think people are very sensitive about election issues,” Matt Dunlap said, Maine’s Democratic Secretary of State and a member of the new bipartisan commission. “I think that’s why we see the reaction from the public and the responses from different secretaries of state.”

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 Friday cautioned they’re bound by their own state law in what information can be made public and what can’t.

“We will not provide specific social security numbers, we will not provide specific dates of birth,” Wayne Williams said, Colorado’s Republican Secretary of State. “We also don’t provide other information like driver license numbers.”

Indiana’s Republican Secretary of State Connie Lawson, who is hosting the group this weekend, said officials will be discussing the sensitive issue hoping “to learn the concerns from other states.”

“Indiana law allows me only to release certain data,” she said. “And it does not include date of birth of social security numbers.”

Lawson also is a member of the panel which will meet for the first time later this month.

“I think this will come up as a pretty hot topic about how to proceed now that many states say they won’t or cannot provide the data,” Dunlap said.

Already this weekend the topic appears hot as secretaries of state seek input from their colleagues about their responses and concerns.

“I hope we get some answers to some of this,” Merrill said. “Because I do think this is an odd time to be forming a national database of some kind when we’re so concerned about security.”

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