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CHC Urges Secretaries of State to Safeguard Voter Information

Jul 7, 2017
Press Release
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Congressional Hispanic Caucus (CHC) Chairwoman Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham and Members of the CHC sent a letter to the National Association of Secretaries of State to voice strong concern for possible privacy violations and voter suppression following requests for voter information from the Department of Justice (DOJ) and the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity.
 
As stated in the letter, “We are alarmed about the large amount and sensitive nature of the information requested, as well as the lack of information provided about what that information will be used for.”
 
The letter went on to say, “We cannot ignore President Trump’s repeated rants about unsubstantiated claims of widespread voter fraud, fraud that was somehow undetected by the men and women dedicated to protecting state election systems. Given the words and actions of President Trump, Vice President Pence and vice chair Kobach, it is difficult to imagine that this commission will not advocate for the sometimes illegal voter suppression tactics frequently carried out by its vice chair, Secretary Kobach.”
 
The letter was sent in advance of the summer conference of the National Association of Secretaries of State being held in Indianapolis, IN, and follows a letter sent by the Congressional Black Caucus raising similar concerns.
 
The letter was signed by: Michelle Lujan Grisham, CHC Chairwoman; Joaquin Castro, CHC First Vice Chair; Ruben Gallego, CHC Second Vice Chair; Pete Aguilar, CHC Whip; Adriano Espaillat, CHC Freshman Representative; Darren Soto, Civil Rights and Voting Rights Task Force Chair; and Rep. Tony Cardenas.
 
COPY OF LETTER
 
July 7, 2017
 
National Association of Secretaries of State
Hall of States
444 N. Capitol Street, NW
Suite 401
Washington, DC 20001
 
 
Dear Members of the National Association of Secretaries of State,
 
We write to express our serious concerns regarding the letters issued by the Department of Justice and Secretary of State Kris Kobach on June 28, 2017, on behalf of the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity. We are alarmed about the large amount and sensitive nature of the information requested, as well as the lack of information provided about what that information will be used for. These concerns echo those expressed by our Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) colleagues in their June 30, 2017 letter to you.
 
The accusatory tone of the letters sent by Secretary Kobach and the Department of Justice seem to suggest a lack of confidence in our states’ ability to conduct free, fair and honest elections. Furthermore, the information collected could lead to the creation of a national voter file. Both of these points raise privacy, civil liberties and states’ rights concerns. Secretary Kobach’s request for information may also be illegal, as our CBC colleagues note, potentially violating the federal Privacy Act.
 
Though we would not oppose nonpartisan analysis of the efficiency, accuracy and, above all, cybersecurity of our state elections, we cannot ignore President Trump’s repeated rants about unsubstantiated claims of widespread voter fraud, fraud that was somehow undetected by the men and women dedicated to protecting state election systems. Given the words and actions of President Trump, Vice President Pence and vice chair Kobach, it is difficult to imagine that this commission will not advocate for the sometimes illegal voter suppression tactics frequently carried out by its vice chair, Secretary Kobach.
 
While there is no evidence of widespread voter fraud, there is evidence that certain laws and practices have prevented law-abiding Americans from voting in the past. Studies estimate that more than 1 in 10 Americans may lack government-issued identification. Additionally, laws and efforts that impose voter ID laws or purge voter registration rolls disproportionately impact poor, elderly, disabled and minority Americans, and increase the amount of red tape and bureaucracy needed to exercise a basic Constitutional right.
 
We should be making it easier for law-abiding American citizens to vote, not more difficult. To paraphrase the words of Vice President Pence to Advisory Commissioners, “the right to vote is a foundation of our democracy.”
 
We are encouraged by the overwhelming number of Democratic and Republican secretaries of state that have rejected the commission’s request. We urge you all to defend every American’s right to vote, and continue to safeguard your states’ ability to protect the privacy of its citizens.
 
Sincerely,
 
 
# # #
 
The Congressional Hispanic Caucus (CHC), founded in December 1976, is organized as a Congressional Member organization, governed under the Rules of the U.S. House of Representatives. The CHC is dedicated to voicing and advancing, through the legislative process, issues affecting Hispanics in the United States, Puerto Rico and U.S. Territories.
 
Media Contact:
Carlos Paz Jr.
202-252-0053