SC Election Commission's Chris Whitmire explains turning down voter info request
President Donald Trump’s voter fraud watchdogs won’t be getting information about S.C. voters from Palmetto State election officials.
But they will be getting some of the information they asked for after all.
Not long after S.C. election officials said Thursday it’s against state law to turn over voter information to anyone other than a S.C. registered voter, one of those voters – S.C. Republican Party Chairman Drew McKissick – tweeted that he would buy the data from state election officials and hand it over to Trump’s Advisory Commission on Election Integrity.
“It is a critical function of self-government for voters to have confidence in the integrity of our voting process,” McKissick said in a tweet.
The S.C. Democratic Party shot back on Twitter that McKissick’s “undermining” the confidence of the electorate in the process.
The Democratic chairman Trav Robertson said McKissick’s decision will “assist them (Republicans) in finding a pretext for disenfranchisement.”
“The possession of such sensitive information by this disgraceful group endangers our civil liberties, threatens our voting rights, and undermines confidence in our elections,” Robertson said.
After the state received the request for voter data, state Sen. Vincent Sheheen, D-Kershaw, publicly called on the S.C. Election Commission not to release voters’ private data, and said it was “hypocrisy” for GOP critics of federal overreach to provide that information to the government themselves.
“Maybe it’s fitting that they’re not going to get this through official sources, but through a political hack,” Sheheen added Thursday.
But McKissick defended the decision, noting the data is publicly available and regularly accessed by S.C. organizations for a $2,500 fee.
“We’re not talking about selling it to a marketing firm. It’s the federal government,” McKissick said. “It’s the same as the state government having this information.”
South Carolina has investigated voter fraud before during a contentious debate over a voter ID law. Republicans said S.C. voters needed to show a photo ID at the polls to protect against fraud.
Citing alarming claims of fraud at the time, S.C. Attorney General Alan Wilson, R-Lexington, asked the State Law Enforcement Division to investigate.
The agency found human and technical error, but no fraud.
What Trump’s panel won’t get
With McKissick’s help, Trump’s fraud panel will get part of what it asks for.
The S.C. voter rolls include a voter’s name, address, date of birth, race, gender, voting precinct and all electoral districts the voter belongs to.
However, the voter rolls do not include some other information the president’s commission requested. It does not include Social Security numbers or party identification, which South Carolina does not require from voters.
While the roll does include voter history for the 2014 and 2016 election cycles including party primaries, the information does not include how an individual voter cast their ballot in those races.
After South Carolina formally received the request form the Election Integrity Commission on Monday, S.C. Gov. Henry McMaster had urged election officials to only release information that is already publicly available, and other elected officials had also urged officials to protect voters’ private information.
McMaster’s office did not have any immediate comment on McKissick’s suggestion he would release the data to the Trump administration.
S.C. voters have raised concerns
State elections officials said they have received hundreds of phone calls this week from S.C. voters concerned about their information being released. Some even asked to be removed from the registration list rather than have their information go to the presidential panel.
S.C. officials decided the panel appointed by President Donald Trump is not entitled to the information under South Carolina law, which only allows the commission to release voter information to a registered South Carolina voter, said Election Commission spokesman Chris Whitmire.
The decision deals another blow to Trump’s commission investigating unsubstantiated allegations of voter fraud. South Carolina is one of 14 states with Democratic or Republican leadership that have also refused to turn any data over to the federal commission. Forty-four states have refused to turn over at least some confidential information to the panel, according to CNN.
Whitmire said South Carolina would comply with a separate request from the presidential commission, asking for suggested improvements to voter laws or procedures and any examples of voter fraud or other “election-related crimes” in the state.