Missouri Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft is responding to angry voters throughout the state after he said June 30 that he’d partially comply with a data request from a White House panel investigating voter fraud.
His reasoning, as explained Thursday: He wants fair elections.
“There are smart bright people that are on both sides of the issue about vote fraud and how common it is,” the Republican said in an interview in St. Louis. “Why shouldn’t we want to put that to rest?”
President Donald Trump’s new Advisory Commission on Election Integrity sent out its request late last month for voter information. Ashcroft has said he’s handing over voters’ names, addresses, birthdates, where they voted and when. He has repeatedly emphasized that no private details, especially Social Security numbers, will be provided.
The Columbia Daily Tribune reported Ashcroft's office got an earful from Missouri residents, with office spokeswoman Maura Browning saying it had received "literally hundreds of calls" as of Thursday.
This weekend, Ashcroft is at a national gathering of secretaries of state in Indianapolis, where the presidential commission was a hot topic.
At least 12 states have refused to comply to the commission’s information request, according to National Public Radio. Forty-five states, including Missouri, are listed as not providing all the information that the commission requested.
Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens has said he sides with Ashcroft, as long as only public information is turned over.
Tony Rothert, legal director for the Missouri chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union, contends that the true purpose of the federal commission may be to use voter fraud fears to purge legitimate voters from the rolls.
“We’re very skeptical of the purpose of this commission based on the people who are running it, who have been promoting efforts to suppress voters, especially people of color,” Rothert said.
Ashcroft said the only question about voter fraud is how widespread it may be, and went on CNN earlier this week to talk about it. He told St. Louis Public Radio on Thursday that the evidence it’s happening includes a recent Kansas City case, in which a Democrat won a state House seat by one vote, but two relatives admitted in court to voting illegally.
While Ashcroft said that such voter-fraud cases may be rare, he believes the federal panel could compare all states’ voter rolls to track down people who are improperly registered.
“Why are people scared of looking at the data?” Ashcroft said. “This is publicly available data.”
Rothert said he wasn’t surprised that some Missouri voters were alarmed — and that more Republican officeholders hadn’t raised questions. He pointed to anger among GOP leaders in 2013 when the Missouri Highway Patrol provided public information on concealed-carry gun permits to the Social Security Administration at its request.
On Friday, Ashcroft’s campaign committee sent an email attacking his Democratic predecessor, Jason Kander, and U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill. Both have raised questions about the commission and whether Missouri should cooperate.
Kander is the head of a new voting-rights group and criticized the Trump election commission during appearances as a CNN contributor.
“Jason Kander is attacking me for following the law and providing this data to the Trump Election Integrity Commission, after he fulfilled nearly 400 data requests during his four years as Missouri Secretary of State,” Ashcroft said.
Kander could not be reached for comment.
Follow Jo on Twitter: @jmannies