Michigan SOS limits voter data provided to Trump panel

Jonathan Oosting
Detroit News Lansing Bureau

Lansing – Michigan will provide publicly available voter data to President Donald Trump’s Commission on Election Integrity but will “certainly not go beyond what is legally required” by providing any protected personal information, according to Secretary of State Ruth Johnson’s office.

Michigan will treat the request from the Trump commission “just like any other Freedom of Information Act request,” department spokesman Fred Woodhams said Monday, noting the state will charge $23 for the data, just as it does for “routine” requests by political parties, candidates and news organizations.

But Woodhams said the state will not provide the last four digits of voter Social Security numbers, birth dates or drivers’ license numbers, as requested in a recent letter from Commission Vice Chair Kris Kobach, the Republican secretary of state in Kansas. The letter indicated the request applied only to information “publicly available under the laws of your state.”

Several states have rebuffed the commission’s information request, arguing the Trump administration is perpetuating a “myth” that voter fraud played a significant role in the 2016 election.

As a candidate, Trump repeatedly suggested the election would be rigged against him. After winning the Electoral College, the New York Republican argued he would have won the popular vote “if you deduct the millions of people who voted illegally.”

Johnson, a Republican, has repeatedly touted the integrity of Michigan elections. In her second and final term as the state’s top election official, Johnson has pointed to her efforts to clean up Michigan’s voter rolls.

On Friday, her office said it has performed 1,400 post-election audits since she took office in 2011.

“Michigan is rightly known as a state that encourages all eligible voters to have their voices heard on Election Day and one that voters can have full confidence in the accuracy and integrity of the results,” Johnson said in a statement.

“I will work with anyone to find ways to make voting accessible for all eligible Americans as well as strengthen election integrity. I firmly believe in, and will defend, our state’s right to administer our own elections and safeguard our voters and their private information.”

While many states like Michigan have partially complied with the Trump commission request, a handful of election officials have outright refused to provide any information, including Mississippi Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann, a Republican.

Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf, a Democrat, said Friday his state would not participate in the “systemic effort to suppress the vote.” But even Wolf noted that, like any other citizen, the commission can purchase a public voter file from Pennsylvania.

While a lot of states are “being very loud about refusing… they’ll be doing what Michigan is doing, which is providing the information that, under their state’s Freedom of Information Act, has to be provided,” Woodhams said.

The Congressional Black Caucus weighed in Friday, releasing a letter urging secretaries of state to deny the data requests from the commission and U.S. Department of Justice.

“We have little doubt that if complied with, these letters – issued unilaterally without any vote or public discussion – would lead to an unprecedented, nationwide voter suppression effort,” wrote caucus Chairman Cedric Richmond, a Louisianan Democrat who was joined by other caucus members including House Judiciary Committee Ranking Member John Conyers, D-Detroit.

Detroit Branch NAACP leaders on Monday also called on Michigan to join other states not complying with the request from the commission, which they say “appears to be an effort designed to convince the nation that President Trump did not lose the popular vote by three million plus votes. Further, it is reflective of a greater purpose to intimidate, reduce and eliminate voter protection, voter mobilization and voter participation of minority communities, youth, seniors and the elderly.”

A post-election state audit uncovered “an abundance of human error” by precinct workers in Detroit. The extensive review discovered 216 questionable votes that produced a net over-vote of 40 ballots in a city that backed Democrat Hillary Clinton over Trump, 95 percent to 3 percent.

A separate statewide review found 31 Michiganians who appeared to vote twice, once by ballot and once in person on Election Day.

But a comprehensive review of Michigan voting data by the conservative Anderson Economic Group revealed no widespread voter fraud, a point Johnson has repeatedly echoed.

In additional to voter information, the presidential commission is asking state-level election officials to provide any evidence or information regarding instances of voter fraud or registration fraud.

joosting@detroitnews.com