Thursday, August 22, 2019

Letter from Feds requesting voter information sparks concern

The good news: They can’t find out how you voted

By Toni Todd

A federal request has some registered voters in Gunnison County looking for clarification on just how much of their voting history will be given over to the Presidential Advisory Committee on Election Integrity. The concerns stem from a letter received last Wednesday by Colorado Secretary of State from Kris Kobach, vice chair of the committee. The source of voters’ worry is this passage:

“In order for the Commission to fully analyze vulnerabilities and issues related to voter registration and voting, I am requesting that you provide to the Commission the publicly available voter roll data for Colorado, including, if publicly available under the laws of your state, the full first and last names of all registrants, middle names or initials if available, addresses, dates of birth, political party (if recorded in your state), last four digits of social security number if available, voter history (elections voted in) from 2006 onward, active/inactive status, cancelled status, information regarding any felony convictions, information regarding voter registration in another state, information regarding military status, and overseas citizen information.”

Gunnison County clerk Kathy Simillion said the county has no role in the interchange between the federal government and the state.

“What we can speak to, however, is the integrity of [our] voter registration rolls,” she said.

Colorado law mandates that voter registration lists must be provided upon request. They are, and have long been considered, public information. However, not all information on an individual’s voter record is public.

What’s available for the asking includes a voter’s name, address, date of party affiliation, year of birth, gender, and voting history. What remains confidential are driver’s license number, full birth date, social security number, email and signature.

“These will never, never, ever, ever be given out,” said Simillion.

Most important, she said, public record data on voters provides no information about a person’s ballot. Your voter history, she said, shows only whether or not you’ve voted, and in which elections. It does not divulge how you voted.

“We will provide publicly available information on the voter file,” said Colorado Secretary of State Wayne Williams, in a press release, “which is all they have asked for.”

There was, however, more to the Kobach letter, though Williams implied there’s little there to elicit concern. The commission, said Kobach, seeks “views and recommendations” from secretaries of state across the political spectrum on seven specific issues, including whether they have evidence of voter fraud or registration fraud in their state, how the commission can support election administrators with regard to information technology, security and vulnerabilities, and how voters can be protected from intimidation or disenfranchisement.

“We are very glad they are asking for information before making decisions,” Williams said. “I wish more federal agencies would ask folks for their opinion and for information before they made decisions.”

Simillion said about 10 people have come into the county elections office to file a Voter Record Confidentiality Request. To do so, you must go into the election office in person, with your I.D. There’s a $5 statutory fee for processing. There’s also a deadline on this if you wish to complete the affidavit before your information is sent to the Feds: July 14.

Simillion said she’d heard that some voters in Boulder County were requesting to cancel their registrations. That has not been true in Gunnison County. Simillion reminds anyone considering this more drastic measure, that if they do elect to remove themselves from the voter rolls, they’ll have to re-register if they wish to vote in future elections.

“Yes, some voters have expressed concern,” said Gunnison County election official Diane Followell. “We encourage everyone with questions to give us a call or stop in.”

The elections office phone number is 641-7927. The address is 221 N. Wisconsin Street, Gunnison.

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