The Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity dropped its effort for the voter information to include such private data as the last four digits of Social Security numbers. The revision came after the state blocked two inquiries by the commission seeking the broader range of voter information
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) in June was one of the first governors to object to the commission’s initial request for information from all 50 states.
“New York refuses to perpetuate the myth voter fraud played a role in our election,” Cuomo said at the time. “We will not be complying with this request and I encourage the election commission to work on issues of vital importance to voters, including ballot access, rather than focus on debunked theories of voter fraud.”
Despite Cuomo’s bold statement, he apparently never had the authority to block the commission from getting some voter data. New York’s bipartisan Board of Elections, which is independent from the governor and controls the voter records, on Wednesday sent data to the commission after receiving a public records request for it, according to Thomas Connolly, the board’s deputy director of public information.
The board said the information it sent on Wednesday was no different than what it would provide to any member of the public. The voter database transmitted, which includes 12 million records with 45 different fields, does not include the partial Social Security numbers or driver’s license numbers, according to The Buffalo News. It does include voters’ names, addresses, party affiliations and birth years.
Similar information has been released to interested parties 1,379 times since 2015, according to Politico.
“To be clear, the original letter from the president’s election commission requested information that the commission is not legally entitled to obtain,” Cuomo said in a statement. “Accordingly, our administration rejected that request because it not only violated privacy rights ― but also state law. Our position remains unchanged and we will continue to deny requests for sensitive personal data about New York residents, which is protected under the law. We will never provide private voter information to anyone, especially a politically motivated organization seeking to perpetuate the myth of voter fraud.”
The New York release comes after the commission made a second request for voter information from the 50 states on July 26 after previously asking them to hold off because of litigation challenging the effort. After initially saying all documents submitted to the commission would be made public, the July letter said it would not release any personally identifiable details and would delete voter data after the commission’s work was complete.
New York election law prohibits the use of voter information for “non-election purposes,” but that ban isn’t clearly defined. Connolly said the elections board determined that the commission’s most recent request for the data did not violate the state law.
New York’s League of Women Voters chapter criticized the release of the data, saying even though the information is publicly available, news of it being sent to the commission would lead to voter suppression. In Colorado, more than 5,000 voters de-registered after the state compiled with the commission’s information request.
“Although the release of this information through freedom of information law requests is not uncommon, this particular request is a veiled threat to our state’s voters,” the New York league said in a statement. ”The commission is already having a negative impact on our voters. The league has received many phone calls from individuals wishing to ‘unregister’ themselves and remove themselves from the state voter database in order to remain anonymous to this commission.”
The New York chapter of Common Cause, a progressive watchdog group suing the commission, said in a statement the board of elections should have done more to investigate what the commission planned to do with the data before handing it over.