WASHINGTON — The Illinois State Board of Elections has a board meeting on Monday with a sizzling issue suddenly landing from the White House: Will the state of Illinois turn over personal information about Illinois voters to President Donald Trump’s new “election integrity” commission?
GOP Gov. Bruce Rauner is declining to take a stand because – and this is my theory – he does not see an angle in this Trump-related flap that will help him win re-election in 2018.
Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., on Sunday called on the state board “to utilize every legal authority to refuse any disclosure of sensitive voter information. . . . Based on the President’s comments and behavior and his choice of Kris Kobach — who has earned significant criticism and notoriety for his endless attempts to disenfranchise voters — as the vice chair, I do not trust this commission to examine voting issues in a thorough, legitimate manner.”
Trump created the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity on May 11 in the wake of his repeated false claims that he should have won the popular vote over Hillary Clinton if not for voter fraud.
As Trump wrote incorrectly in a Nov. 27 Twitter post, “In addition to winning the Electoral College in a landslide, I won the popular vote if you deduct the millions of people who voted illegally.”
In November, the nonpartisan PolitiFact said there was “zero evidence for this conspiracy theory.”
Trump’s commission last week sent a letter to all 50 states asking them to send to the commission by July 14 all publicly available voter data including names, birth dates, political party, voting history from 2006 onward, felony convictions and the last four digits of the Social Security number. Social Security numbers, in general, are not available to the public under Illinois law.
The letter was signed by Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, who is vice chair of the commission, who may not be the best person to be in charge since he said — even though there is not a shred of evidence — that Trump’s false claim of massive 2016 voter fraud is “absolutely correct.”
In Illinois, the elections are run by the state board. General counsel Ken Menzel on Friday told the Chicago Sun-Times that Kobach’s letter hadn’t arrived yet. “Until we get a request, I think it premature to say how we will respond,” Menzel said.
Just in case the letter was accidentally sent to Secretary of State Jesse White – in some states the secretary of state oversees elections – I asked White spokesman Dave Druker on Sunday if they had heard from Kobach.
Druker replied, “As of the end of the workday Friday, we had not received it. The office has been closed since then. I told Ken that if we get it, I will get it to him. We are not involved in this as the Illinois Board of Elections has jurisdiction on this.”
The state Board of Elections has a regular monthly meeting at 10:30 a.m. Monday in person in Springfield and via a teleconference at the Thompson Center in the Loop.
The Kobach matter, springing to life on June 28, came too late to make the board agenda. But even if the Kobach letter hasn’t arrived, it’s out in the public and the board should debate whether to comply.
Democratic governor contender J.B. Pritzker said in a statement, “The administration’s request for Illinois voter rolls is not just a waste of time and resources, it’s a violation of Illinoisan’s privacy.”
According to an Associated Press tally, 10 states and the District of Columbia will not comply with the Kobach letter; 16 states, including Illinois, are undecided; and 22 states are handing over partial information, as allowed by state law.
Said Kentucky Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes, a Democrat, on MSNBC: “There’s not enough bourbon here in Kentucky to make this request seem sensible.”