Dozens Of States Reject Trump Administration Voter Initiative

Jul 4, 2017
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STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

In this country, there are so many good ways to celebrate the Fourth of July. At 3:55 this morning, some of our colleagues were making hotdogs and eating Tostitos, sort of Fourth of July picnic. There's so much news. New Jersey Governor Chris Christie has signed a new budget which reopens the state government, including the state beach that he used while it was closed.

We can also celebrate this country by having a political argument, and we are. Dozens of states have now rejected a Trump administration initiative. The Commission on Election Integrity asked every state for detailed information on every voter, seeking evidence of fraud. Many states say they will not or cannot legally comply with the commission, which grew out of the president's sensitivity over losing the popular vote. NPR's Domenico Montanaro is here.

Hi, Domenico.

DOMENICO MONTANARO, BYLINE: Good morning, Steve.

INSKEEP: What makes the states so resistant to providing the information?

MONTANARO: Well, it's exactly the kind of information that they're asking for that makes them concerned. Kris Kobach, who's the former secretary of state of the state of Kansas, wrote a letter to states asking for their input for the kinds of things - like what kinds of changes they'd like made, how the commission can help support them. And then it goes on to ask what evidence they have of voter fraud.

And they say that they're asking for voter roll data, dates of birth, political party, the last four digits of your Social Security number, voter history, evidence of felony convictions and notes that, you know, that people should be aware that any documents submitted to the commission would be made publicly available. And this is the kind of thing that a lot of states just said - wait a second. We don't want to put all of this information out there to be made public because we're not exactly sure what you're going to do with it.

INSKEEP: OK, so two things there - first, you mentioned voter fraud. That's a reminder that this commission grew out of the president's claim, without evidence, that he lost the popular vote because of millions of illegal votes. Right?

MONTANARO: That's absolutely true. He's claimed that he lost by 3 million votes. There's absolutely no evidence that there's that kind of widespread fraud. And, you know, there has been a commission that has been set up during the Bush administration, for example. It found hundreds of cases of voter fraud but nothing on the scale of millions that would have tipped the balance in 2016.

INSKEEP: And also, you said a lot of this information would be made public. Some of it is public, right? Is the concern just that it would all be put in one place?

MONTANARO: You know, the concern is having that information out there. I mean, there's some federalism concerns. These states want to have their own control over the states - over their voter rolls within their states. And, though, part of that concern, obviously, is what the Trump administration is willing to do with that kind of information. Are they going to recommend purging people from voter rolls for example?

INSKEEP: Well, this argument will continue well after this Independence Day, no doubt. Domenico, thanks very much. Enjoy the holiday.

MONTANARO: You're welcome. Same to you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.