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The State of Texas Is Legally Prohibited From Supplying Confidential Voter Information to Kris Kobach

As you may know, Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach has sent a letter to the state voter registrars in all 50 states, asking for a broad range of both public and private personal information about registered voters. The Brennan Center for Justice has the details here: https://www.brennancenter.org/press-release/brennan-center-states-examine-legal-obligations-providing-voters-personal-information

As the Brennan Center reports:

Kobach’s letter, reportedly sent to every Secretary of State in the country, asked for extensive details including: “the full first and last names of all registrants, middle names or initials if available, addresses, dates of birth, political party (if recorded in your state), last four digits of social security number if available, voter history (elections voted in) from 2006 onward, active/inactive status, cancelled status, information regarding any felony convictions, information regarding voter registration in another state, information regarding military status, and overseas citizen information.” His letter also stated that “any documents submitted to the full Commission will also be made available to the general public.”

(For more information about President Trump’s commission on “voter fraud” see this recent Slate story by Rick Hasen).

Secretary Kobach’s request is so broad, in fact, that in his position as the Secretary of State of Kansas, he can’t respond to the portion of the request asking for voters’ social security numbers (as noted here).

Similarly, under Texas law, certain information collected from voters as part of the voter registration process is confidential and cannot be disclosed. In failing to submit an affidavit relating to the purpose of the request, and in requesting social security numbers, Secretary Kobach’s request does not comply with Texas law.

I should also note that (per both the Texas Election Code and laws relating generally to public information requests) the State of Texas imposes a prerequisite reasonable fee for producing a copy of the statewide voter registration list. If Secretary Kobach amends and conforms his request to comply with Texas law, he will also need to pay for the list.

The following statutes are relevant:

Section 13.004(c), Texas Election Code:

The following information furnished on a registration application is confidential and does not constitute public information for purposes of Chapter 552, Government Code:

(1) a social security number;

(2) a Texas driver’s license number;

(3) a number of a personal identification card issued by the Department of Public Safety;

(4) an indication that an applicant is interested in working as an election judge; or

(5) the residence address of the applicant, if the applicant is a federal judge or state judge, as defined by Section 13.0021, the spouse of a federal judge or state judge, or an individual to whom Section 552.1175, Government Code, applies and the applicant:

Section 18.066, Texas Election Code:

(a) The secretary of state shall furnish information in the statewide computerized voter registration list to any person on request not later than the 15th day after the date the request is received.

(b) Information furnished under this section may not include:

(1) a voter’s social security number; or

(2) the residence address of a voter who is a federal judge or state judge, as defined by Section 13.0021, or the spouse of a federal judge or state judge, if the voter included an affidavit with the voter’s registration application under Section 13.0021 or the applicable registrar has received an affidavit submitted under Section 15.0215.

(c) The secretary shall furnish the information in the form and order in which it is stored or if practicable in any other form or order requested.

(d) To receive information under this section, a person must submit an affidavit to the secretary stating that the person will not use the information obtained in connection with advertising or promoting commercial products or services.

(e) The secretary may prescribe a schedule of fees for furnishing information under this section. A fee may not exceed the actual expense incurred in reproducing the information requested.

(f) The secretary shall use fees collected under this section to defray expenses incurred in the furnishing of the information.

(Emphasis added).

 

 

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