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Missouri to give Trump commission limited voter details, as Illinois waits for White House request

Jumira Moore, 8, watches as her mother, Timira Saunders, fills out a ballot at Central Baptist Church in St. Louis on Tuesday, Nov. 8, 2016.
File photo I Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

The Missouri Secretary of State’s office will comply with a White House commission’s request for voter information — but only the details allowed under state law.

Missouri will provide the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity with voters’ names, addresses, voting sites and elections they voted in, said Maura Browning, communications director for Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft. But the state will not give the commission any Missouri voter’s Social Security number, political-party affiliation or identify how they voted, Browning said.

The commission, which is investigating claims of widespread voting fraud, on Wednesday asked all states to submit detailed information on voters, including names, addresses, dates of birth and voting history.  Browning noted that the commission’s letter added that election authorities should comply with their state’s laws governing public information.

But former Missouri Secretary of State Jason Kander, a Democrat who now heads a national voting-rights group, says the public “should be outraged” by the commission’s request. “I certainly don’t trust the Trump administration with that information,” Kander wrote on Twitter.

Browning emphasized Friday that the state of Missouri does not have any records on how anyone voted or which party ballot they took in a primary.

“There shouldn’t be any controversy about this,’’ Browning said, adding that anyone filing an open-records request can receive some of the same general voter information.

Still, she acknowledged that the Secretary of State’s office has received a lot of calls from Missouri voters concerned about what information might be sent to President Donald Trump’s new board.

The Missouri chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union says it plans to file an open-records request with Ashcroft's office "to ensure that the office maintains the integrity of public records and does not give any Missourian’s private information over to this administration’s voter suppression campaign."

NPR: White House panel asks states for their voter rolls

The commission’s vice chair, Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, wrote in a letter sent to election officials in all 50 states this week that the panel is “studying the registration and voting processes used in federal elections’’ and will submit a report to the president.

Some states, including New York and California, are refusing to send in any information about voters.

Voting-rights groups, including Common Cause, are wary. They accuse Kobach and the White House of planning a national purge of people from voter rolls.

“We are very concerned that the Pence-Kobach commission, premised on the lie of rampant illegal voting, is nothing more than a partisan attempt to manipulate our voting processes that will make it harder for eligible Americans to vote,” Common Cause said in a statement. “We are pleased that so many election officials have already spoken out with their concerns about the requests they received this week.”

Kobach has said the commission’s aim is to improve elections, but also to “increase the integrity of our election systems.”

In Illinois, the state’s Board of Elections said its office has yet to see the commission’s letter, said Ken Menzel,  its general counsel.

“We’re not going to respond to a letter until we get one,’’ he said.

Menzel noted that voter information is not available to the general public through the state’s open-records laws. The records can be given to certain governmental bodies, Menzel said, but he declined to speculate whether the Trump commission will qualify.

Follow Jo on Twitter: @jmannies

Jo Mannies has been covering Missouri politics and government for almost four decades, much of that time as a reporter and columnist at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. She was the first woman to cover St. Louis City Hall, was the newspaper’s second woman sportswriter in its history, and spent four years in the Post-Dispatch Washington Bureau. She joined the St. Louis Beacon in 2009. She has won several local, regional and national awards, and has covered every president since Jimmy Carter. She scared fellow first-graders in the late 1950s when she showed them how close Alaska was to Russia and met Richard M. Nixon when she was in high school. She graduated from Valparaiso University in northwest Indiana, and was the daughter of a high school basketball coach. She is married and has two grown children, both lawyers. She’s a history and movie buff, cultivates a massive flower garden, and bakes banana bread regularly for her colleagues.