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MI SOS has "no authority" to spurn Trump's voter fraud commission request for voter data

Voters in Ypsilanti, Mich.
Paulette Parker
Michigan Radio
Anyone in MI can request names, addresses, year of birth and voting history data

President Trump's voter fraud commission has requested voter registration data from all 50 states, and many Secretaries of State are refusing, in full or in part.

But the commission will apparently get the information that is public from Michigan.

"People should know that voter lists in Michigan and across the country are public record under state law and have been for decades," Michigan Secretary of State Communications Director Fred Woodhams said in an email.  "The department has no authority not to provide voter data. It is common for political parties and candidates to obtain voter info."

What's public in Michigan is voters' names, addresses, year of birth, and voting history, meaning in which elections they have voted. 

The voter fraud commission requested a lot of more information than that, such as political party of the voter and military status, but says it recognizes that some states won't be able to provide that information because it's not publicly available or the state doesn't have the information.

Experts who study voter fraud agree that it's rare.  Mark Grebner of Practical Political Consulting says if the voter fraud commission hopes to prove that thousands of Americans voted more than once in the last election, it will fail.  It's easy to find thousands of people with the same name and year of birth voting in presidential elections, he says, but they are almost always different voters who share the same name and year of birth.

Grebner says there may only be 100 to 200 actual cases of someone voting more than once in national elections, and many times, those double votes are simple mistakes by the voter, without an intent to commit fraud.

In addition, Grebner says it's easy enough to disprove wild claims that millions of illegal aliens voted in the last presidential election by looking at the voter record books kept by poll workers on election day.

Some Secretaries of State say the request by the voter fraud commission is part of a voter suppression effort and they won't comply. 

In addition to the request by the Trump voter fraud commission, states also received a letter from the Department of Justice seeking information on voter registration list maintenance procedures. 

In a statement, the Congressional Black Caucus said, “We have little doubt that if complied with, these letters – issued unilaterally without any vote or public discussion – would lead to an unprecedented, nationwide voter suppression effort."

Other critics say the ultimate aim of the voter fraud commission is to convince Congress to rescind all or part of the 1993 National Voter Registration Act, which made it easier for Americans to register to vote and to maintain their voter registration.

Tracy Samilton covers energy and transportation, including the auto industry and the business response to climate change for Michigan Public. She began her career at Michigan Public as an intern, where she was promptly “bitten by the radio bug,” and never recovered.
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