- Associated Press - Friday, June 30, 2017

ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) - Minnesota Secretary of State Steve Simon on Friday rejected a request for voter registration data by a White House panel studying voter fraud, joining fellow Democratic officials in several other states in refusing to comply.

President Donald Trump, a Republican, established the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity in May. Vice chairman Kris Kobach wrote to states this week seeking voter names, addresses, dates of birth, recent voting history and details about military status and felony convictions. Trump lost the popular vote to Democrat Hillary Clinton but has alleged, without evidence, that 3 to 5 million people voted illegally.

Simon, a Democrat who was voted Minnesota’s top elections official in 2014, said the commission’s motives were suspect and the information it’s seeking was too sensitive to hand over.

“It sure doesn’t look like a very objective investigation. It looks like something that is pre-cooked, predetermined,” Simon said Friday after announcing he wouldn’t provide the data. “Handing over sensitive personal info of nearly 4 million people to a questionable entity is just not a place I was willing to go.”

Simon has been a vocal critic of Trump’s assertion of voter fraud, stressing that false voter registration in Minnesota is very rare and prosecuted. He said he didn’t consult with Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton before making the decision.

Simon isn’t alone among Democrats in rejecting the Trump administration’s request. California quickly denied the request, and was joined by officials in Kentucky, Massachusetts and Virginia. Other states have said they’ll turn over only limited amounts of data to the commission.

Minnesota already sells much of its entire voter registry for $46, a boon for political parties and operatives gathering information on potential voters. But that list doesn’t include any Social Security numbers or military or criminal history and only lists a voter’s birth year. And Simon stressed that it’s only available to registered Minnesota voters in limited circumstances.

“What the commission asked for is way beyond all of that stuff,” he said, comparing what is publicly available in Minnesota versus the commission’s request.

State Sen. Mary Kiffmeyer, a Republican and former secretary of state, called on Simon to relent and send the data.

“Secretary of State Simon should stop obstructing the President in his quest to strengthen voter integrity. Minnesotans gain nothing by pretending no one in our state ever votes illegally, but we have a lot to gain by making sure every legal vote counts,” she said in a statement. “The Election Integrity Commission should receive the same information that’s already publicly available to anyone else.”

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Information from: Minnesota Public Radio News, https://www.mprnews.org

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