41 states have declined to provide some or all of the sensitive information requested by the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity, a panel established by President Donald Trump and led by Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach and Vice President Mike Pence.
Kobach sent a letter to all 50 states on Wednesday requesting personal information of every voter in the United States, including full names, addresses, political affiliation, voting history, and the last four digits of social security numbers. CNN reports that only three states have responded positively to Kobach's request.
Many states consider the requested information to be private, and some believe that handing it over would violate local law. Even Kansas, Kobach's state, has refused to deliver the social security numbers. On Friday Kobach told The Kansas City Star that the same letter was sent to every state, and the commission is not expecting information that is not "publicly available."
The commission's existence has been a source of controversy since its founding. It was established by an executive order signed by Donald Trump, who has said repeatedly that illegal voting was rampant in the 2016 election, a claim which he has provided no evidence for.
The commission, voting rights activists believe, is a respectable smoke screen to suppress the vote across the country. Kristen Clarke, president and executive director of the Lawyers' Commission and Election Protection, called it "a dog whistle for voter suppression."
Some states repeated that argument in their letters rejecting the commission's request. Maryland Attorney Brian Frosh, called it "repugnant" in his statement.
“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 wrote. “There is no evidence that the integrity of the 2016 election in Maryland — or any other state — was compromised by voter fraud."
Terry McAuliffe, Democrat governor of Virginia, concurred on Thursday. "This entire commission is based on the specious and false notion that there was widespread voter fraud last November. At best this commission was set up as a pretext to validate Donald Trump's alternative election facts, and at worst is a tool to commit large-scale voter suppression."
Republican-controlled states also rejected the commission. "My reply would be: They can go jump in the Gulf of Mexico, and Mississippi is a great state to launch from," Delbert Hosemann, Mississippi's Secretary of State and a Republican, said in a statement Friday.