A group of Georgia lawmakers recently questioned why President Donald Trump’s commission on election integrity was asking for data on voters, saying they had heard from constituents who were afraid the information could be used against them.
Leading the opposition against it is state Rep. Roger Bruce, D-Atlanta, who head’s Douglas County’s eight-member delegation, and represents District 61, which covers parts of Douglas, Cobb and Fulton counties.
Bruce said he saw no reason why the federal panel, which Trump created to investigate unsubstantiated claims of voter fraud during last year’s presidential election, had asked states to provide voters’ voting histories, if that information was available.
“The bottom line is why they would be asking for that kind of information in the first place, especially information that identifies how we voted in the past," Bruce said. "We can’t find any logic to that, so the question becomes why would he really want this information and we know he has issues with not winning, so to speak, and it seems that he’s trying to find out why he did not win with a majority vote and we feel like ... they want to use the information to suppress the vote, and so that’s why we have concerns about it ... because you want to collect all this information, but you don’t tell us what you want to do with it. Why would you need this information if you aren’t using it for purposes that are inappropriate?”
Bruce said the president should offer more transparency with regard to his own tax records.
“... It’s kind of ironic that they’re asking for that information, almost demanding it, but not demanding that this man turn over his tax returns; I think his tax returns are more relevant to the security of this country than anything else. Who might he have alliances with in other countries that could pose a conflict of interests that would be identified by his tax returns?” Bruce said.
And Bruce said requests like this one for voter data threaten the sanctity of the voting booth.
“We don’t want to go back to a time when people feel that they are being intimidated at the polls, and then to cast your vote would put you in any kind of risk at all,” Bruce said.
Bruce said that the Georgia Legislative Black Caucus plans to introduce a joint resolution for consideration during the General Assembly’s 2018 session seeking to block such information-sharing outside the state. But since a majority of the Legislature and current state leadership is Republican, the resolution from Georgia’s Black Caucus may be mostly to make a point.
State Sen. Mike Dugan, R-Carrollton, also contacted by phone last week, feels that the request doesn’t really tax the boundaries of acceptability.
“Though I respect Representative Bruce and know how hard he works for his constituents, I think he may be misunderstanding what Georgia has agreed to provide, said Dugan, who represents District 30 which includes parts of Douglas, Carroll and Paulding counties. "What Georgia has said they will provide — after receiving the mandated $250 fee — is the same information that anyone can get from the publicly available voter list."
Georgia officials have said they would not share information considered private under state law such as registered voters’ driver’s license numbers and Social Security numbers, although they planned to share data already made available to any member of the public who requests it — including voter names, addresses, race and gender, if provided by the voter.
“In the last 18 months, over 600 groups have requested the same list that Georgia has agreed to provide," Dugan said. "Those 600 include numerous universities, media outlets including the AJC and the New York Times, and political parties. The Libertarian Party of Georgia, the Georgia Republican Party, and even the Democratic Party of Georgia have asked for this same information."
Dugan added: "It's kind of a moot point right now until the lawsuit in D.C. regarding this gets resolved."
Earlier this month the Electronic Privacy Information Center filed its lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.
The lawsuit, announced the week before the response from the Georgia delegation, was the latest resistance to the voter commission, run by Vice President Mike Pence and Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach.