Requests for states to release voter information following President Donald Trump’s claims of widespread voter fraud have sparked controversy around the country but appear quite common in Texas.
On Friday, the Texas Secretary of State’s office released a list of requests for voter information it received since January 2015 under an open records request from Texas Monthly.
Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach requested voter information from all 50 states, including names, birthdays, the last four digits of voters’ Social Security numbers, and individual voter history dating back to 2006. The request raised ethical and legal questions about creating a nationwide voter database. Some fear if the requests are fulfilled, the information could lead to voter suppression through inaccurate flagging of duplicate voters.
The Texas Secretary of State’s list shows the state received more than 800 requests for voter information over the past year and a half. It handed over data for about three-fifths of those requests. Sam Taylor, spokesperson for the Texas Secretary of State’s office, said many organizations and individuals request cost estimates for information, such as addresses, but don’t follow through with the request because of the fees.
A glaring difference between Kobach’s request and the others submitted in Texas is the breadth of the request, namely the last four digits of Social Security numbers. That information isn’t public under Texas law.
Prior requests in Texas appear narrower in scope. For example, some requests focus on one specific election, region of the state, or party affiliation. The list of requestors include politicians on both sides of the aisle, including Republican state Representatives Sarah Davis and Byron Cook, and Democrat Jessica Farrar, along with Republican Congressman Lamar Smith.
Kobach and Trump have both made unsubstantiated claims that large numbers of undocumented immigrants vote in U.S. elections. To investigate whether there was voter fraud in last year’s election, Trump formed the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity through an executive order in May. The commission meets for the first time this month, and is chaired by Vice President Mike Pence. Kobach serves as vice-chair.
The commission submitted its request to Texas on June 29. Taylor said that request is on hold pending a federal court decision in D.C.
With contributing reporting by R.G. Ratcliffe.