WASHINGTON, DC – Today, U.S. Senator Cory Booker urged the New Jersey Department of State to reject efforts by the Trump Administration to obtain sensitive voter information from New Jerseyans. Last week, the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity requested state-level voter data including names of all registrants, dates of birth, addresses and partial Social Security numbers in an effort to investigate President Trump’s widely unsubstantiated claims of voter fraud in the November election.
In a letter to Acting Secretary of State Dennis Robinson, Booker wrote: “I am alarmed by the purpose of this Commission: to look into a nonexistent problem of widespread voter fraud as a guise to collect data that is likely to be used to suppress legal voting in future elections and to provide President Trump’s outlandish and laughable claim that he actually won the popular vote with some appearance of legitimacy.”
“Given the complete lack of any basis for claims of widespread voter fraud, the privacy and cybersecurity concerns raised by various watchdog groups, and reasonable concerns about the future use of this information, I strongly urge you to join the vast majority of states in rejecting the request made by the Commission and that you not share any information pertaining to New Jersey voters,” Booker added.
The full text of the letter is as follows:
July 6, 2017
The Honorable Dennis Robinson
Acting Secretary of State
New Jersey Department of State
PO Box 300 Trenton, NJ 08625
Dear Secretary Robinson,
I write today in regard to the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity (“the Commission”) and its sweeping request for sensitive information pertaining to New Jersey voters. I am alarmed by the purpose of this Commission: to look into a nonexistent problem of widespread voter fraud as a guise to collect data that is likely to be used to suppress legal voting in future elections and to provide President Trump’s outlandish and laughable claim that he actually won the popular vote with some appearance of legitimacy. Next week, I will introduce legislation to repeal this executive order and ensure Congress spends no funds implementing the Commission’s work.
I read yesterday the brief statement indicating that the Commission’s request is “under review” and that no non-public information will be released, but I urge you to simply reject this request outright. Many states have done just that, often within only a few days of receiving the request, rightly urging the Commission to not play politics with voter data. Even one taxpayer dollar spent on this sham of a commission would be a waste of resources, and would lend credibility to this dangerous and absurd crusade.
Since taking office, President Trump has made numerous baseless and widely dismissed claims that millions of unregistered voters cast ballots in the last election. As you know, this is plainly not true. More broadly, the issue of widespread voter fraud is in itself a fallacy. A recent report from the Brennan Center, which studied 42 jurisdictions in which election officials oversaw the tabulation of 23.5 million votes in 2016, has thus far found just 30 possiblecases of non-citizen voting. A comprehensive review of over a billion ballots cast between 2000 and 2014 found only 31 credible instances of in-person voter fraud. In fact, someone is more likely to be struck by lightning than to impersonate someone at the ballot box. Dr. Lorraine C. Minnite of Rutgers University who has studied voter fraud concluded that voter fraud, including non-citizen voting, is very rare. In an interview with National Public Radio in 2010, Dr. Minnete stated, “People who are here who are undocumented don't tend to go around trying to . . . bring attention to themselves, especially doing something that is illegal.”
Nonetheless, on May 11, 2017, following widespread criticism of his debunked claim that he won the popular vote, President Trump issued an Executive Order establishing a so-called “election integrity” commission to look into voter fraud. He has even called it the “Voter Fraud Panel.” But it is abundantly clear that this commission is a thinly veiled attempt to push policies that are designed to suppress the vote in poor and minority communities. The fact that Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach was named Vice Chair of the Commission confirms its true purpose. Throughout his career Mr. Kobach has peddled a false and dangerous narrative that voter fraud is happening at alarming rates and has pursued discriminatory voter suppression laws across the country to combat this nonexistent problem.
It is important to note that New Jersey has worked, and continues to work, to make voter registration simpler and to ensure that every New Jerseyan permitted under law has unfettered access to the ballot box. The right to vote is among the most precious features of our American democracy. I have serious concerns that this Commission will advocate for proposals that would make it more difficult for eligible voters to vote in future elections, particularly those in poor and minority communities.
Finally, given that U.S. Homeland Security officials have confirmed that the election systems of 21 states were targeted by Russian hackers, it is clear to me that focusing on the nonexistent issue of voter fraud is not the best use of resources for New Jersey or the federal government. In a recent interview your predecessor, Lieutenant Governor Kim Guadagno indicated she felt strongly that New Jersey’s election system and voting machines were secure. Moving duplicate data to an additional system that will harbor a treasure trove of information for those who continue to wish to do harm to our democratic process is dangerous. To do so as part of a surreal exercise in search of a problem that doesn’t exist, all to satisfy an itch by President Trump to lend some credibility to the notion that he didn’t lose the popular vote by a sum of 2.9 million Americans, would constitute a breach of your duties to New Jersey, and our great nation.
It is worth noting that Republicans have been among the harshest critics of this inquiry. Louisiana Secretary of State Tom Schedler stated, “The President's Commission has quickly politicized its work by asking states for an incredible amount of voter data that I have, time and time again, refused to release. My response to the Commission is, you’re not going to play politics with Louisiana’s voter data, and if you are, then you can purchase the limited public information available by law, to any candidate running for office. That’s it.”
Mississippi Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann was also critical saying, “My reply would be: They can go jump in the Gulf of Mexico, and Mississippi is a great state to launch from. Mississippi residents should celebrate Independence Day and our state’s right to protect the privacy of our citizens by conducting our own electoral processes.”
I urge you to be as definitive in your response.
The Commission is ignoring the most pressing issue concerning the integrity our elections—the fact that Russians interfered in our electoral process. Given the complete lack of any basis for claims of widespread voter fraud, the privacy and cybersecurity concerns raised by various watchdog groups, and reasonable concerns about the future use of this information, I strongly urge you to join the vast majority of states in rejecting the request made by the Commission and that you not share any information pertaining to New Jersey voters.
Cory A. Booker
United States Senator
 See Michael D. Shear & Emmarie Huetteman, Trump Repeats Lie About Popular Vote in Meeting With Lawmakers, N.Y. Times, Jan. 23, 2017, available athttps://www.nytimes.com/2017/01/23/us/politics/donald-trump-congress-democrats.html.
2 Christopher Famighetti, Douglas Keith & Myrna Pérez, Brennan Center for Justice, Noncitizen Voting: The Missing Millions 1 (2017), available athttps://www.brennancenter.org/publication/noncitizen-voting-missing-millions.
3 Justin Levitt, A comprehensive investigation of voter impersonation finds 31 credible incidents out of one billion ballots cast, The Washington Post (Aug. 6, 2014),available at https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/wonk/wp/2014/08/06/a-comprehensive-investigation-of-voter-impersonation-finds-31-credible-incidents-out-of-one-billion-ballots-cast/?utm_term=.760a01554155.
4 Justin Levitt, Brennan Center for Justice, The Truth About Voter Fraud 6 (2007), available at https://www.brennancenter.org/publication/truth-about-voter-fraud.
5 Pam Fessler, Immigrant Voter Fraud Fears Didn’t Materialize, NPR (Nov. 5, 2010), http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=131089170.
6 Matt Zapotosky & Karoun Demirjian, Homeland Security official: Russian government actors tried to hack election systems in 21 states, The Washington Post (June 21, 2017), available at https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/national-security/homeland-security-official-russian-government-actors-potentially-tried-to-hack-election-systems-in-21-states/2017/06/21/33bf31d4-5686-11e7-ba90-f5875b7d1876_story.html?utm_term=.a903d36670b3.
7 Claude Brodesser-Akner, After voting for herself, Guadagno explains how N.J. polls are safe from hacking, NJ Advance Media (June 6, 2017),http://www.nj.com/politics/index.ssf/2017/06/after_voting_for_herself_guadagno_vouches_nj_vote_1.html.