Oregon secretary of state won't supply voter information sought by Trump-named panel
Oregon Secretary of State Dennis Richardson says he will not heed a request by a presidential commission to submit personal voter information.
Richardson, a Republican, issued a response Friday after a slew of Democratic legislators — led by U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden — called on him to do so.
President Donald Trump alleges — "in claims that have not been backed up," Wyden says — that voter fraud was widespread in the 2016 presidential election and the commission's task is to look into it.
The commission vice chairman is Kris Kobach, Kansas secretary of state, who has led efforts to restrict voter registration. He asked states on Wednesday to supply personal information such as addresses, dates of birth, and the final four digits of Social Security numbers.
"I am calling on Dennis Richardson … not to endanger Oregonians' personal information and not comply with this particular request," Wyden said at a Friday Forum of the City Club of Portland.
Richardson's response in part says:
"I don't believe the federal government should be involved in dictating how states conduct their elections… We have very little evidence of voter fraud or registration fraud in Oregon."
He said there have been 15 cases since 2000, when Oregon began to conduct all elections by mail ballots.
Richardson, a former Republican state representative and 2014 nominee for governor, was elected secretary of state last year.
Though Oregon's 36 counties run elections, the secretary of state maintains a database known as Oregon Centralized Voter Registration, which was funded by federal grants under the 2002 Help America Vote Act.
Richardson also wrote:
"We believe the best way to prevent voter intimidation or disenfranchisement is to follow the Oregon model of trying to get every eligible voter on the registration rolls through automatic registration and outreach efforts, and then, sending every registered voter a ballot."
Wyden's office later released a letter signed by Sen. Jeff Merkley and Reps. Earl Blumenauer, Peter DeFazio and Kurt Schrader, all Democrats.
"Put simply, any willingness by your office to comply with the Kobach commission's request would constitute a direct threat to Oregonians' privacy and security," their letter says.
"Additionally, it is nothing short of a thinly veiled assault on voting rights."
Richardson said in his letter he would be in violation of Oregon laws barring disclosure of Social Security and driver license numbers. Lawmakers recently tightened the law against disclosure of Social Security numbers, although that bill (SB 769) takes effect Jan. 1, 2018.
Wyden's letter also says that the commission requested states to submit the information to an insecure email address.
"Those who do comply with this request will be creating a bonanza for hackers — and will put at great risk the highly personal information of a great many Oregonians," it says.
At least four other states — California, Kentucky, Massachusetts and Virginia — say they will not honor the request.
Gov. Kate Brown, a Democrat and a former secretary of state, also weighed in on Wyden's remarks.
"We should protect voters; information and expand access to ballot, not suppress it," she said in a tweet.
A similar letter was sent to Richardson on Friday by two Democratic state representatives from Portland, Barbara Smith Warner and Rob Nosse.
They mention Richardson's own statement earlier this year that he is satisfied there was no voter fraud in Oregon last fall.
"We stand ready to support your efforts to protect Oregon's system â€“ including, if necessary, through legislation to shield sensitive voter data from federal interference," their letter says.
Write-through adds comments from letter by Secretary of State Dennis Richardson, who says his office will not release personal voter information.