ALBANY – Despite the initial objection by Gov. Andrew Cuomo, the state elections board Wednesday agreed to send a slew of information about every registered voter in New York State to a presidential commission looking into possible voter fraud issues in last year’s elections.
While Cuomo vowed in June that New York would not comply with a request for the voter information, the Board of Elections – which maintains voter roll information and is not directly controlled by Cuomo – decided otherwise after the commission amended its request for voter details.
In all, 12 million records were mailed in CD format Wednesday afternoon by the state elections agency to the federal elections panel.
The Cuomo administration, however, said the information sought by the presidential commission changed since June and that the state did not provide a number of details about voters that were originally sought.
Much of the information the agency released to the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity is already public and has previously been given to a slew of political campaigns in New York, including campaigns that support Cuomo, for use for everything from mailings to election night get-out-the-vote efforts.
The commission, set up by President Trump, began asking states in late June to turn over information about voters – including their names, addresses and other details that individual state laws permit to be released.
As such, New York will not be giving the commission such information as the last four digits of voters’ Social Security numbers or their motor vehicle ID numbers that some newly registered voters have submitted. Officials had already previously said voters' felony conviction records are not maintained by the state and so would not be released to the commission.
But there will be 45 separate fields of information given to the commission by the elections board about every registered voter, including their names, date of birth, home address, voting districts, party affiliation and a list of every election they have ever voted in.
Many of the requests for information were sent by the federal panel to secretaries of state offices. At the time, Cuomo said New York’s Secretary of State, Rossana Rosado, whom he appointed to the job, would not be furnishing the commission with any of the requested information.
“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 in June. “We will not be complying with this request,’’ he added.
On Wednesday, after the election board mailed the voter records to Washington, Cuomo said the commission had originally requested information whose release would have violated state privacy laws. "We will never provide private voter information to anyone, especially a politically motivated organization seeking to perpetuate the myth of voter fraud,'' Cuomo said.
Administration officials said the June request by the federal commission could not have been legally released, such as parts of social security numbers. They noted the new request, made in a Freedom of Information request last week, sought only details that are public under New York laws. Moreover, they said the information given the federal panel is distributed several times a day by state and local election boards across New York.
Voter information in New York is not held by the secretary of state, but rather by the elections agency, whose two Republican and two Democratic commissioners OK'd the information transfer.
The New York League of Women Voters called it “distressing” that the elections board would agree to comply with the Freedom of Information Law request by the federal panel. The group said it believes the information gathering campaign is a “veiled threat to our state’s voters” that will lead to voter suppression.
“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 the commission,’’ the League’s Jennifer Wilson said in a statement.