COLUMBIA — Despite the S.C. Election Commission declining Thursday to send voter data requested by a White House panel searching for fraud in last year’s presidential race, the information is heading to Washington, D.C., anyway.
A state GOP leader said he will buy the data, as allowed by law, and send it to the Presidential 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,” S.C. Republican Party Chairman Drew McKissick tweeted.
The data can be purchased for $2,500 by South Carolina registered voter as long as its not used for commercial purposes.
Many S.C. voters from both parties objected to sharing voter data with the presidential commission. Some fear joining a central database that includes voter information from states across the country would be a tempting target for hackers.
McKissick’s move came after the S.C. Election Commission struck down the White House request citing state law.
“The (election commission) has carefully reviewed the request and applicable state law and has consulted with the S.C. Attorney General’s office,” agency spokesman Chris Whitmire said. “The (commission) has determined that the agency is not permitted to share voter data with anyone from outside the state. The (commission) can only provide voter data to a registered South Carolina voter.”
Whitmire said the commission’s decision is not a rebuke of the request from the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity: “This would apply to any requestor of this information from outside the state, whether a university researcher, media outlet, or other individual or entity.”
South Carolina joins at least 14 other states and the District of Columbia that have refused the White House’s request for voter data. Most cited privacy concerns.
Requests for comment from S.C. Gov. Henry McMaster, an early Trump backer in the 2016 presidential campaign, were not returned immediately Thursday. The governor supported releasing publicly available voter information in tweets on Monday.
Critics, including top state Democrats, asked South Carolina election officials this week to either release only publicly available information or follow state law, which says election data can be sold only to the S.C. registered voter for a fee.
“I regret that you have to waste your time dealing with it,” State Sen. Vincent Sheheen, the Democratic nominee for governor in 2010 and 2014, wrote to S.C. Election Commission director Marci Andino in a letter on Wednesday.
Nothing prevents a registered S.C. voter from buying the state election commission data and sending it to the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity, like McKissick plans to do.
South Carolina sells some voter information — including names, addresses, voting history and dates of birth. Common purchasers of S.C. voter data are political campaigns and pollsters.
Kris Kobach, the Kansas Secretary of State and vice chair of the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity, hinted at the White House would find other ways to get voter data in a statement released Wednesday: “(T)his bipartisan commission … 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.”
The White House panel, led by Vice President Mike Pence, requested voter information from all 50 states last week. Most states have agreed to send the panel voter information that is available to the public.
No states have agreed to send all the information requested by the presidential commission, which included the last four digits of Social Security numbers, military service records and felony records.
Trump created the election integrity panel after he blamed unspecified acts of voter fraud for losing the popular vote to Democrat Hillary Clinton. Trump won the Palmetto State handily by more than 300,000 votes.
South Carolina election officials said they did not receive any reports of widespread voter fraud last year. No concrete evidence has been found elsewhere across the country to back the president’s allegations.
That hasn’t prevented Trump from expressing his frustration at states for not cooperating with his investigation. He tweeted over the weekend: “Numerous states are refusing to give information to the very distinguished VOTER FRAUD PANEL. What are they trying to hide?”