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Secretary of State addresses privacy concerns over disclosure of voter info

Secretary of state will share information allowed by state law
Secretary of State Wayne Williams held a news conference Wednesday to address concerns about his office’s decision to provide voter information to a the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity. Colorado will be providing publicly available information to the commission, which includes names, addresses and party affiliation, but not protected information such as Social Security numbers or complete dates of birth.

DENVER – Colorado Secretary of State Wayne Williams said he will provide a presidential commission looking to crack down on voter fraud with publicly available voter information and a list of suggestions to improve the integrity of the national electoral process.

The information will include voters names, mailing addresses, birth year, party affiliation (if any) and if they voted last year or in previous years. Colorado won’t provide the commission information about how anyone voted, because it has no idea.

The Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity, which was created in May by an executive order from President Donald Trump, asked for the information. The commission is tasked with identifying practices that enhance or undermine voter confidence in the electoral system and vulnerabilities that could be exploited through voter fraud. Last week, the commission requested publicly available voter information, including names, addresses, dates of birth and, if available, the last four digits of Social Security numbers.

In a news conference Wednesday, Williams, a Republican, said Colorado will provide the information it is allowed to under state law, which does not allow the disclosure of Social Security numbers or full dates of birth, regardless of how his office feels about the motivation behind the request.

“Colorado law does not permit the secretary of state, or any other county elected official, or anybody else to say, ‘I’m only going to give it to the people I like,’” he said.

The disclosure is in line with the hundreds of other requests for voter information that Williams’ office receives every year, he said.

Typically, these requests are made by campaigns, candidates, issue committees, media and citizens. This information allows a candidate, or group, to use campaign resources on people who are actively involved in the electoral process or party they are affiliated with.

Disclosure of protected personal identification information, such as complete dates of birth and Social Security numbers, has been a concern for lawmakers and voter’s rights advocates who have criticized the commission’s request since it was issued last week.

Several secretaries of states criticized the commission’s request or refused to disclose voter information. Democrats say the panel would look for ways to suppress the vote, and it’s unclear what it will do with the requested information.

Many question the commission’s intent because of repeated unsubstantiated claims by Trump that as many as 5 million people voted fraudulently in last year’s presidential election. Democrat Hillary Clinton won the popular vote. Colorado has about 3.7 million registered voters. It has the nation’s highest voter registration rate and ranks high in voter turnout.

Williams said evidence of voter fraud is rare. Of the 21,000 mail-in ballots disqualified in Colorado during the 2016 election, none has been proven to be fraudulently cast.

Williams declined to state his impression of the commission’s work and said even if it is politically motivated, it would not dictate his decision.

“Colorado’s going to comply with Colorado law, not the law in Wisconsin or Mississippi or wherever else may be the case,” he said.

Williams said the request from the electoral integrity commission also solicited input on the current electoral process and how it could be improved to promote voter confidence.

“In a rare instance, the federal government’s actually asked states what they think before they adopt preliminary regulations,” he said.

lperkins@durangoherald.com. The Associated Press contributed to this story.

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