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West Virginia, Ohio to comply with voter registration data request

PARKERSBURG — Several states have denied a request for voters registration data from a presidential commission studying the integrity of federal elections, according to a survey of secretaries of state by the Associated Press.

West Virginia and Ohio are complying with the request from the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity, which was created by order of President Donald Trump after he made unsubstantiated claims of large-scale numbers of non-citizens or other ineligible people voting in the 2016 elections for president.

In West Virginia, the secretary of state’s office said state law prohibits disclosing Social Security and driver’s license numbers, phone numbers and some other details, and it can charge $500 for the voter registration list and another $500 for data that shows elections in which each voter cast a ballot.

The information to be provided is consistent with West Virginia, said Wood County Clerk Mark Rhodes, a member of the presidential advisory commission. The law in West Virginia allows the data to be supplied to agencies or companies crosschecking and studying the accuracy of the voters registration rolls without charge, Rhodes said.

“It doesn’t say ‘federal government,'” he said.

Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted, a Republican, issued a statement saying voter registration information is public information available to the commission, but he will not provide the last four digits of Social Security numbers or the driver’s license numbers.

“In responding to the commission, we will have ideas on how the federal government can better support states in running elections,” Husted said. “However, we will make it clear that we do not want any federal intervention in our state’s right and responsibility to conduct elections.”

Kentucky is among the states denying the request.

“As the commonwealth’s secretary of state and chief election official, I do not intend to release Kentuckians’ sensitive personal data to the federal government,” Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes, a Democrat, said. “The president created his election commission based on the false notion that ‘voter fraud’ is a widespread issue. It is not.”

Also denying the request were the states of California, Delaware, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Mississippi, New Mexico, South Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia and Wyoming, according to the Associated Press. At least three of the states have Republican secretaries of state.

Matthew Dunlap, the Secretary of State of Maine and a member of the advisory commission, in rejecting the request, said the commission’s authority to keep records confidential was unclear.

In South Carolina, state law prohibits the release, so the state Republican Party will purchase the information and give it to the advisory commission.

States undecided on the request are Arizona, Hawaii, Illinois, North Dakota and South Dakota.

The Wood County Clerk has been appointed to a national commission studying federal elections.

Trump received about 3 million votes less than Democrat Hillary Clinton, but received enough electors in the Electoral College to win the election. He created the commission in May and appointed Vice President Mike Pence chairman and Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach vice chairman.

The commission met in July. Another meeting has yet to be scheduled, but is anticipated around the second week of September, Rhodes said.

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