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July 18, 2017

Cummings, Conyers, Thompson and Brady to VP Pence: Remove Kobach from Election Commission and Rescind Request for Sensitive Voter Information

(WASHINGTON) Today, Reps. Elijah E. Cummings, John Conyers, Jr., Bennie G. Thompson, and Robert A. Brady, Ranking Members of the House Committees on Oversight and Government Reform, Judiciary, Homeland Security, and House Administration, sent a letter to Vice President Michael Pence requesting that he ask for the resignation of Kris Kobach from his position as the Vice Chair of the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity, and that he rescind Mr. Kobach’s unprecedented request for sensitive voter information.

“Mr. Kobach has repeatedly claimed, falsely, that widespread voter fraud exists and advertises his work on the Commission to promote his own campaign for governor of Kansas,” the Members wrote. “These actions undermine the integrity of the Commission and raise significant concerns that the Commission will be used as a tool for voter suppression.”

Cummings, Conyers, Thompson, and Brady stated that Mr. Kobach appeared to violate the Hatch Act by using his official role on the Commission to further his 2018 gubernatorial campaign and solicit campaign contributions  campaign website that tout his work on the Commission.

“Mr. Kobach’s partisan activity and his recent sanctions for dishonesty before a court of law cast a shadow over the Commission and undermine its integrity,” the Members wrote. “Mr. Kobach should step down as Vice-Chair and be replaced with an individual who can be trusted to ensure that the Commission operates in a bipartisan manner to protect voter information and to protect the right of Americans to vote.”

Cummings, Conyers, Thompson, and Brady expressed grave concerns with Mr. Kobach’s unprecedented request on behalf of the Commission for sensitive voter data, its failure to specify how that information would be used, its failure to provide clear or sufficient safeguards to protect sensitive voter information, and the Commission’s initial secret phone call that appears to violate the Federal Advisory Committee Act.

“These actions openly flout federal privacy and transparency laws,” the Members wrote.  “The Commission has not offered any plan to protect its proposed nation-wide voter database, even after federal officials have confirmed that voter databases in at least 21 states were hacked in last year’s election by Russia.”

The Members explained that Mr. Kobach’s request has deeply alarmed voters, who are reportedly contacting election officials with fears about the Administration’s intent and requesting to cancel their voter registrations to protect private data.

“We have serious concerns that Mr. Kobach’s purpose in gathering state voter rolls is to conduct a data-matching project that matches each state voter list with other federal databases, in an attempt to discover and then potentially purge purported ‘fraudulent registrations,’” The Members wrote.  “The Commission should explore increasing access to voting, not perpetuating the false and damaging notion that massive voter fraud exists in our nation’s elections.  We will fiercely oppose any attempt by this Administration to suppress the vote and undermine the protections guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution, the National Voter Registration Act, the Voting Rights Act, and other important voter protection laws.”

The Members requested that Pence address several questions about the Commission at its upcoming meeting on July 19, including how it will ensure future compliance with privacy and transparency laws. They also requested documents relating to the purpose of the Commission and how it plans to use state voter information.

Recent reports show that Kris Kobach has proposed making voter registration requirements much stricter – potentially limiting access to the ballot box. In addition to today’s letter, the Congressional Black Caucus and House Judiciary Committee Democrats will host a forum today at 3 p.m. to examine concerns related to Kobach’s requests and proposal. You can view the forum on the House Judiciary Democrats’ Facebook page.

Click here to read today’s letter. 

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Jennifer Werner/Aryele Bradford (Cummings): 202-226-5181   
Shadawn Reddick-Smith (Conyers) 202-225-6906
Adam Comis (Thompson): 202-225-9978
Jamie Fleet (Brady): 202-225-2061