Maryland will not provide data on the state’s registered voters to President Trump’s election commission, a top state elections official said Monday, joining more than two dozen other states that have partially or entirely rejected the request.
“Disclosure of some of the information encompassed by your request may be prohibited under State and/or federal law,” Linda H. Lamone, the state administrator for the State Board of Elections, wrote in a letter sent Monday to the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity. “Accordingly, I am denying your request.”
The commission, which is chaired by Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach (R), asked states to provide voter names, dates of birth, portions of Social Security numbers, voting histories and, if possible, party identifications as part of a broad inquiry in Trump’s allegations of widespread voter fraud in the 2016 election.
The Maryland elections board sought advice from state Attorney General Brian E. Frosh (D) on how to respond to what elections experts called an unprecedented request. The commission also asked states for evidence of voter fraud, convictions for election-related crimes and recommendations for preventing voter intimidation — all within 16 days.
Frosh, who last month filed a lawsuit against the president alleging that payments by foreign governments to Trump’s businesses violate the emoluments clause of the U.S. Constitution, called the commission’s request a “repugnant” maneuver to “intimidate voters and to indulge President Trump’s fantasy that he won the popular vote.”
He said two assistant attorneys general in his office determined that the request was prohibited by Maryland law.
“Repeating incessantly a false story of expansive voter fraud, and then creating a commission to fuel that narrative, does not make it any more true,” Frosh said in a statement. “There is no evidence that the integrity of the 2016 election in Maryland — or any other state — was compromised by voter fraud.”
In neighboring Virginia, Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D) declared Thursday that he had “no intention of honoring this request.”
“Virginia conducts fair, honest and democratic elections, and there is no evidence of significant voter fraud in Virginia,” McAuliffe said.
Trump responded to the backlash from states on Saturday, tweeting, “What are they trying to hide?”
Both Common Cause Maryland and the ACLU of Maryland had raised questions about turning over the data.
Damon Effingham, legal and policy director for Common Cause Maryland, said Maryland law allows only registered state voters to make a request to inspect voter roll information. The voter has to submit a statement that the information will not be used for commercial purposes or purposes unrelated to the electoral process.
“Secretary of State Kobach is a registered voter in Kansas,” Effingham said in a statement. “And the request . . . does not include any indication of how the data will be used, let alone the required statement of intent under Maryland law. In fact, the Commission has stated its intent to release this vast trove of data to the public, creating significant concerns with how that data will ultimately be used.”
Frosh called on Gov. Larry Hogan (R) and state elections officials to speak out against the commission’s effort and any other attempt to “intimidate voters and obtain their personal information.” Hogan so far has not done so.
A Hogan spokeswoman, Amelia Chasse, indicated last week that it was not the governor’s role to make a decision on the request.
After the state board’s decision became public Monday, Hogan spokesman Doug Mayer said the governor agreed with the decision. “As for any such request, the state Board of Elections should supply no more information than is required of them under the law,” Mayer said in an email.
Ben Jealous, one of several Democrats vying for the nomination to challenge Hogan in 2018, joined community leaders in Baltimore at a news conference Monday morning to urge Hogan to condemn what Jealous called an attack to suppress votes.
“We have others who have said, ‘Go jump in the gulf’,” said Jealous, a former head of the NAACP. “Instead, we are stuck with a governor who is painfully silent, one who tries to pawn it off.”