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Cuomo won't send voter information to Trump election panel

ALBANY – Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo says he will will not turn over information about New York state voters to a federal election panel that President Trump created to study possible voter fraud in last year’s elections.

Cuomo said New York “refuses to perpetuate the myth voter fraud played a role in our election” and is turning down a request to give the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity the names, addresses, birth dates, voting history and last four digits of the Social Security numbers of every registered voter in the state.

But much of that information – except Social Security numbers – already is publicly available in New York and used regularly by state, federal and local political campaigns and parties, election law experts note. The information can be obtained free, if a computer disc is provided, from the state elections board.

“Democrats have it. Republicans have it. Everyone has it,’’ one lawyer said of the information.

State officials say the federal panel also has been requesting felony conviction information about voters, which is not maintained by election agencies in New York and is not public. Moreover, the Cuomo administration says the Trump-created panel has not said how it wants to use the information it collects on voters.

Voters registering in New York are asked to provide the last four digits of their Social Security numbers, though experts say such information was not collected at the time when the vast majority of currently enrolled voters registered with the state. Public release of that information is not permitted.

Sen. Fred Akshar, a Binghamton Republican who is chairman of the Senate elections committee, said Friday that privacy and personal information about voters "must be respected and prioritized.''

However, the senator said, "nearly all of the information requested is already publicly available at Board of Elections websites across New York State."

In letters to other states, the federal commission also requested military status, overseas citizen information and other information. The commission has requested the information if such details are permitted to be released under state law.

In New York, as of April 1, there were 11.5 million registered voters, according to the state elections board.

New York joined a number of other states that already turned down the panel’s request, including California, Massachusetts, New Mexico, Kentucky and Tennessee. Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe, a Democrat, on Thursday said the commission was created to “validate Donald Trump’s alternative election facts” and, at worse, “is a tool to commit large-scale voter suppression.’’ He said the only evidence of possible election fraud involves Russian tampering.

By late afternoon Friday, 15 states said they will comply with the requests, according to the National Association of Secretaries of State. Some were saying part of the information being requested is public and part is either not collected or is prohibited from being released. New York was one of seven states so far that have indicated they will not comply with the request, the group said.

The Trump White House criticized states declining to supply the voter information. Sarah Huckabee Sanders, in a Friday briefing with reporters, said the request is for publicly available information and is coming from a bipartisan panel. “I think that that’s mostly a political stunt,’’ she said of governors and other officials in the states rejecting the panel’s request.

The request to the states came from Kris Kobach, the federal commission’s co-chair who is also the Kansas secretary of state. He did not return an email seeking comment, a spokeswoman did not answer her phone and her voicemail box was full.

“The electoral process is sacred, and New York law has strong safeguards in place to prevent sharing of sensitive voter data and harassment against those who exercise their right to vote,’’ Cuomo said Friday in a statement.

Cuomo said he encourages the commission to work on other election matters – such as improving voter access to ballots – “rather than focus on debunked theories of voter fraud.’’

In an executive order issued in May, Trump created the commission, headed by Vice President Mike Pence, to examine laws, policies and practices “that undermine the American people’s confidence in the integrity of the voting processes used in federal elections” and to come up with recommendations to address what Trump called “vulnerabilities” in voting systems.

In its request to the states, the commission asked that the information be provided by July 14. Letters began being sent to all 50 states on Wednesday. It also seeks ideas from officials in each state on how to better ensure voter integrity.

“The integrity of the vote is a foundation of our democracy. This bipartisan commission will review ways to strengthen that integrity in order to protect and preserve the principle of one person, one vote,’’ Pence said earlier this week in a conference call with the panel’s members. The panel is scheduled to hold its first meeting in Washington on July 19.

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