JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – What changes would you make to election laws to ensure the integrity of the elections? That’s the question put to Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft and the other election officials across the nation this month.
President Donald Trump in May announced a commission he proposed would look into the integrity of the elections across the U.S., setting up an investigation to his belief that as many as 3 or 5 million people voted illegally last November. That number has been dismissed by a number of experts and election officials, but the real controversy in this matter came when the commission completed their first action: asking all 50 states to send in detailed voter registration records.
So, as the state’s leading authority on elections and voting, the Secretary of State oversees all elections in the state, and for that simple reason, Ashcroft now finds himself tied into the national debate.
The records asked for would include names, date of birth, political party, the last four numbers of social security, and voting history, which the panel says would allow them to study the extent of voter fraud. Some states have refused to comply, as many as 44 declining to at least some portion of the request at the beginning of July. Many have decried the call for records, saying it’s just another attempt to disenfranchise certain voters, particularly minorities or the elderly.
“They can go jump in the Gulf of Mexico, and Mississippi is a great state to launch from,” Mississippi’s Republican secretary of state, Delbert Hosemann, said in response.
Colorado’s Republican secretary of state, Wayne Williams, sent a nine-page letter that begins: “Elections are working well in Colorado.”
Here in Missouri, Secretary of State Ashcroft was one of the election officials that complied. Ashcroft’s stance on voter fraud is nothing new; he campaigned heavily on the matter in the past election. He said that he will not give social security numbers to the commission, but will provide names, voting history, and locations.
“We do know vote fraud occurs,” Ashcroft said during a CNN interview, where said that the voter documents requested were “public information that we regularly give out.”
Indeed, the Missouri Times sought to see how easily one might obtain those records, and within less than an hour’s time, had obtained a disc full of the requested records. All one has to do is fill out a form and pay the $50 fee, and they can walk out with a copy.
But aside from the request for voter documents, the commission also asked for input. In his letter to states requesting the voter data, Vice Chair of the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity and Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach asked for recommendations on how to prevent voter intimidation or disenfranchisement as well as how to help “state and local election administrators with regard to information technology security and vulnerabilities.”
Kobach asked the election officials from each state to answer the following questions.
1. What changes, if any, to federal election laws would you recommend to enhance the integrity of federal elections?
2. How can the Commission support state and local election administrators with regard to information technology security and vulnerabilities?
3. What laws, policies, or other issues hinder your ability to ensure the integrity of elections you administer?
4. What evidence or information do you have regarding instances of voter fraud or registration fraud in your state?
5. What convictions for election-related crimes have occurred in your state since the November 2000 federal election?
6. What recommendations do you have for preventing voter intimidation or disenfranchisement?
7. What other issues do you believe the Commission should consider?
All of this comes prior to the first official public meeting of the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity, which took place this week.
The commission met Wednesday – you can watch the entire meeting here.
A spokesman for Secretary Ashcroft said that they have not responded to the questions at this time, as the commission is not accepting the responses at this time. There’s still some legal debate over the whole issue – and multiple lawsuits. But, the spokesman confirms that if and when the responses are sent to the commission, they will be made available to the public as well.
Benjamin Peters is a reporter for the Missouri Times and Missouri Times Magazine, and also produces the #MoLeg Podcast. He joined the Missouri Times in 2016 after working as a sports editor and TV news producer in mid-Missouri. Benjamin is a graduate of Missouri State University in Springfield. To contact Benjamin, email firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @BenjaminDPeters.