Why your voting data is headed to Trump panel

ALBANY -- Despite Gov. Andrew Cuomo's initial opposition, the state Board of Elections on Wednesday agreed to send New Yorkers' voter information to a White House panel investigating voter fraud.

The data, including names, addresses, dates of birth, political parties and voting history, will be forwarded to the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity.

The Board of Elections said the information is already public under the state's Freedom of Information law so long as it's used for election purposes, which it deemed to be the case in this instance.

The data sent to the federal commission will not include social security numbers or driver's license numbers, the state said.

"Under New York Election Law and New York FOIL law, it is public information absent the social security number information," board spokesman John Conklin said in a statement.

"The commission made the specific attestation it would be used for an elections purpose. We had no lawful reason to deny the request."

The board's decision was in contrast to the Democratic governor's initial position.

When the federal request was made in June, Cuomo said New York would not comply -- joining many states in rejecting the request.

"New York refuses to perpetuate the myth voter fraud played a role in our election," Cuomo said in a statement June 30.

But Cuomo's office said Wednesday the federal request has since come through a FOIL request seeking only publicly available information, so the request needed to be granted.

The state board fields hundreds of requests for the state's voter rolls each year.

The USA Today Network's Albany Bureau, for example, requested the data in late June. The board fulfilled the request within two weeks.

The federal commission, chaired by Vice President Mike Pence, said it is seeking to improve the election system and find any evidence of fraud after President Donald Trump alleged widespread voter fraud in last year's election.

The state League of Women Voters criticized the state Board of Elections' decision, calling it "very distressing" and saying voters have already contacted its office fearing how their information may be used.

"Although the release of this information through Freedom of Information Law requests is not uncommon, this particular request is a veiled threat to our state’s voters,"  the group's policy director Jennifer Wilson said in a statement.

"It is our fear that the collection of this data will ultimately lead to an increase in voter suppression."

© Gannett Co., Inc. 2017. All Rights Reserved


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