New Jersey state officials said Wednesday that they will not disclose private voter information to President Trump’s Advisory Commission on Election Integrity, a controversial panel formed to investigate claims of voter fraud during the 2016 presidential election.
That, however, does not foreclose cooperation between New Jersey and Trump’s commission. Most if not all of the voter information the commission is seeking from all 50 states is public in New Jersey and available upon request.
“To date, no information has been released nor will any future information be released that is not publicly available or does not follow the appropriate legal process for information requests,” Robert Giles, the director of the Division of Elections, said in a statement.
Giles added that the commission’s request is “under review” and that the state has until next week to respond.
Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno, the Republican nominee for governor and New Jersey’s current secretary of state, has recused herself from all decisions involving the Division of Elections, which she supervises, because she will be on the ballot this year. Guadagno shared Giles’s statement on Wednesday on her Twitter account.
Trump’s commission is led by Vice President Mike Pence and the vice chairman is Kris Kobach, the Kansas secretary of state, who has been sued four times by the American Civil Liberties Union due to allegations of voter suppression. Dozens of states have announced they will be rebuffing the commission’s requests for voter data, calling it a voter suppression effort in disguise.
“New York refuses to perpetuate the myth voter fraud played a role in our election,” New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said in a statement Friday afternoon. “We will not be complying with this request and I encourage the Election Commission to work on issues of vital importance to voters, including ballot access, rather than focus on debunked theories of voter fraud.”
Before New Jersey’s decision was announced, advocacy groups including the ACLU urged Guadagno to deny the request. The ACLU called the inquiry a “sham exercise” and the New Jersey Institute for Social Justice said the purpose of the commission was to “disenfranchise voters.”
Phil Murphy, Guadagno’s Democratic rival in the governor’s race, said the state “should never send private voter data” to Trump’s “voter suppression panel.” In a Tuesday statement on Twitter, Murphy said that Guadagno and Gov. Chris Christie should not “sell out” residents.
Elected officials in New Jersey also put the pressure on Guadagno to deny the request.
“As the top state official responsible for protecting the integrity of the election systems in New Jersey Kim Guadagno should not have hesitated for a moment in denying this request,” said state Sen. Ray Lesniak (D-Union), a former Democratic candidate for New Jersey governor who lost the primary.
In a Sunday Facebook post, Guadagno said “protecting the integrity of elections is a top priority and it has been the policy of the Division of Elections to protect private personal information and only provide publicly available data to those who file a proper open public records request.”
She added: “However, since I am recused from matters regarding the Division of Elections because I am also running for governor, I am not involved with handling the federal government’s request for voter information.”
The Trump commission is seeking information such as voter names, addresses, phone numbers, party affiliation, and a list of the elections they voted in — all of which are considered public records in New Jersey. Reporters in the state routinely use database services to locate people through their voter registration information. The commission also is seeking — to the extent permitted by state law — the last four digits of voters’ Social Security numbers.
“While there are news reports that 44 states have ‘refused’ to provide voter information to the commission, these reports are patently false, more ‘fake news,'” Kobach said in a statement issued by the White House on Wednesday. “At present, only 14 states and the District of Columbia have refused the commission’s request for publicly available voter information. Despite media distortions and obstruction by a handful of state politicians, this bipartisan commission on election integrity will continue its work to gather the facts through public records requests to ensure the integrity of each American’s vote because the public has a right to know.”