Maryland elections officials deny Trump request for voter data

Maryland elections officials on Monday denied the Trump administration’s request for personal information about the state’s voters as part of a new federal investigation into alleged voter fraud.

Linda H. Lamone, Maryland’s elections administrator, rejected the request for information after receiving an opinion from Attorney General Brian E. Frosh, who called President Donald J. Trump’s investigation “repugnant.”

“The assistant attorneys general representing the State Board of Elections have considered the request to the Board for the personal information of millions of voters and have determined that the requested disclosure is prohibited by law,” Frosh said in a statement. “I find this request for the personal information of millions of Marylanders repugnant; it appears designed only to intimidate voters and to indulge President Trump’s fantasy that he won the popular vote.”

Also on Monday, Maryland Deputy Secretary of State Luis E. Borunda resigned from the panel Trump convened to conduct the investigation. Borunda, a former Baltimore County school board member with little elections experience, was appointed to the commission last week.

Doug Mayer, a spokesman for Gov. Larry Hogan, said Borunda joined Trump’s 15-member bipartisan panel “on his own” and was not appointed by the Republican governor.

“He informed our office he has resigned from the commission,” Mayer said. Borunda did not respond to a request for comment.

Rep. Andy Harris, Maryland’s only Republican in Congress, suggested the Trump administration should withhold money from the state if elections officials won’t comply.

“I’m not surprised that Democrats are worried about investigations into voter fraud,” Harris said. “Why not cooperate? Most of this information is publicly available. There is no reason why not to cooperate with a federal investigation into the extent that voter fraud occurs in Maryland and whether some states are more lax than others.”

Harris cited the example of his former political opponent, Wendy W. Rosen, who pleaded guilty in 2013 to illegally voting in two elections.

“Clearly voter fraud happens in Maryland,” he said.

Last week, Trump administration officials sent requests to all 50 states for publicly available information as part of an investigation into the integrity of elections. More than two dozen other states have partially or fully denied the administration’s request.

Trump tweeted over the weekend that uncooperative states must have something to hide.

“Numerous states are refusing to give information to the very distinguished VOTER FRAUD PANEL. What are they trying to hide?” he wrote.

The Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity asked for voter data including names, addresses, party affiliation, voting history and partial social security numbers.

The commission was created after Trump claimed on Twitter in November that he “won the popular vote if you deduct the millions of people who voted illegally.” Trump won the Electoral College vote, but Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton won the popular vote by nearly 2.9 million votes.

The president has never offered evidence to back up his claim.

“Repeating incessantly a false story of expansive voter fraud, and then creating a commission to fuel that narrative, does not make it any more true,” Frosh said. “There is no evidence that the integrity of the 2016 election in Maryland — or any other state — was compromised by voter fraud.”

Frosh urged Hogan and the State Board of Elections to speak out and “reject any further attempt to intimidate voters and obtain their personal information.”

Much of the requested information is public under Maryland law but must be requested by a registered voter of the state and cannot be used for commercial purposes. Many political campaigns, for instance, obtain such information for purposes of advertising and door-knocking.

Mayer said the state elections board should comply with state law, but not give out private information.

“As for any such request, the state Board of Elections should supply no more information than is required of them under the law,” he said.

The request came in a letter from Kris Kobach, vice chair of the presidential commission and the Kansas secretary of state. The letter does not ask for private information, but rather public voter-roll information.

“In order for the Commission to fully analyze vulnerabilities and issues related to voter registration and voting, I am requesting that you provide to the Commission the publicly-available voter roll data for Maryland,” Kobach wrote in the letter.

State law also says a Maryland voter must submit to the State Board of Elections a statement signed under oath that the requested voter information will not be used for purposes unrelated to the electoral process.

In Maryland, leading Democrats, including Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamentez and nearly 50 members of the General Assembly, condemned the commission’s work.

Former NAACP President Ben Jealous, who is seeking the Democratic nomination in the 2018 gubernatorial race, held a news conference Monday morning calling for the state board of elections to refuse to cooperate with the election integrity commission.

“If the secretary of state of Mississippi can tell this commission and Trump to go jump in the gulf,” Jealous said during a Monday news conference, “we should be telling them to take a flying leap off the Bay Bridge.”

Jealous used the issue as an opportunity to accuse Republican Gov. Larry Hogan of “silently playing footsie with President Trump.” He noted that several other state leaders already have rebuffed the commission’s request.

“We’re calling on Hogan to have the courage to let the people of Maryland know what he thinks, to step out of silence, to stop playing footsie with Trump and join the other states in saying, ‘No, no thank you, no way, no how,’” Jealous said.

Frosh said in a letter to Congress this year that voter fraud is not a significant problem in Maryland.

“To date, there are no cases in which it has been determined that an individual who cast a vote in the federal elections held in November 2016 was legally prohibited from doing so...,” Frosh wrote. “With only two instances of confirmed voter fraud from the total voter turnout of 2,734,176 in the 2012 Presidential General Election, we can safely say that there is no evidence of coordinated or systematic voter fraud in Maryland."