Staff with the South Carolina Election Commission are deciding on their next move after the state received a letter from a White House commission which seeks a list of all registered voters, their ages, political party affiliation, felony convictions and last four digits of their Social Security number.
The Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity says it is seeking the information as part of an investigation into state voting laws. The commission created by President Donald Trump is tasked with reporting back to the White House any “laws, rules, policies, activities strategies and practices that enhance or undermine the American people’s confidence in the integrity of the federal elections process.”
The letter from commission Vice Chair Kris Kobachs asks South Carolina Secretary of State Mark Hammond to weigh in on potential changes to federal laws or vulnerabilities in the system. It also seeks information on any voter fraud, registration fraud or other “election-related crimes” which have occurred in the state since 2000 before probing into personally identifying information. The letter seeks voters names, dates of birth, political party, last four Social Security digits, elections voted in since 2006, voting status, felony convictions, registration in other states, military status and overseas voting.
South Carolina does not record party affiliations (although it does record if a voter participated in a party primary), according to Election Commission spokesman Chris Whitmire. The state also keeps confidential Social Security numbers and any individual voter’s criminal history. State law does allow the Election Commission to sell information on names, age and voting history, but the buyer must be a registered South Carolina voter.
The Election Commission must make the final decision on whether to release the information. The commission’s members are appointed by the governor. Gov. Henry McMaster tweeted hints Monday that he would be okay with the commission releasing information that is already publicly available. “They are required to make the list available to the public upon request and Social Security numbers are never disclosed,” his official account tweeted. “Constitution ensures voters ballot choices will always be secret. Americans have died protecting this freedom.”
McMaster, an early Trump supporter, was much more restrained in his response than counterparts in other states, who questioned the White House’s motives in seeking personally-identifying information. More than two dozen states (mostly Democratic-controlled) have already partially or completely rejected the request. Trump responded to the backlash from states, tweeting over the weekend, “What are they trying to hide?”