- Associated Press - Wednesday, July 5, 2017

TRENTON, N.J. (AP) - New Jersey election officials said Wednesday that they are reviewing a request by President Donald Trump’s voting commission but would only release information that is publicly available.

Democratic lawmakers and a civil liberties group want the state to refuse to release any information requested by the commission. It was established by Trump to investigate allegations of voter fraud in the 2016 elections, but Democrats across the country have blasted the voter commission as a biased panel that is merely looking for ways to suppress votes.

Eleven states have refused to comply with the request and many others, including those led by Republicans, will only give partial information.

The letter requested the names, party affiliations, addresses, voting histories, felony convictions, military service and the last four digits of Social Security numbers for all voters.

Robert Giles, director of New Jersey’s division of elections, said that no information has been released and noted the deadline for a response is July 14. He said no information will be given out if it doesn’t “follow the appropriate legal process for information requests.”

The American Civil Liberties Union’s New Jersey chapter sent a letter Wednesday to Giles calling on him to reject the request.

“New Jersey should not participate in a sham process that will be used to falsely justify attacks on voting rights,” said ACLU-NJ senior staff attorney Alexander Shalom. “We should be doing everything we can to encourage, rather than hinder, participation in our democracy.”

New Jersey’s elections are overseen by Republican Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno, but she recused herself from matters related to this year’s governor’s race, in which she is running to replace fellow GOP Gov. Chris Christie. Campaign spokesman Ricky Diaz cited that recusal for her not commenting and directed a reporter to the division of elections.

“Protecting the integrity of elections is a top priority, but it has been the policy of the Division of Elections to protect private personal information and only provide publicly available data to those who file a proper open public records request,” Guadagno said in a statement posted on Facebook on Sunday. “However, since I am recused from matters regarding the Division of Elections because I am also running for governor, I am not involved with handling the federal government’s request for voter information.”

Some of the most populous and Democratic states have refused to comply, but so have some conservative states that voted for Trump.

“Numerous states are refusing to give information to the very distinguished VOTER FRAUD PANEL. What are they trying to hide?” Trump said in a tweet Saturday.

In New Jersey, Democratic lawmakers on Wednesday called on elections officials not to release the information.

“Turning over sensitive voter information to the federal government with no clear indication of how the Trump administration intends to use it simply is bad for our democracy,” said Democratic Assemblywoman Annette Quijano. “Our nation ought to focus on reducing voter suppression and increasing civic engagement, which are the real threats to our voting process.”

Some Democratic officials have refused to comply with the data request, saying it invades privacy and is based on false claims of fraud. Trump, who created the commission through executive order in May, lost the popular vote to Democrat Hillary Clinton, but has alleged without evidence that up to 5 million people voted illegally.

A spokesperson for the state division of elections did not respond to an email seeking details on which of the records being sought by the commission are considered public records in New Jersey.

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