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Guest View— ‘Commission on election integrity’

If you’re a registered voter in North Carolina, some information about you is a public record. Anyone can look up your party affiliation and find out when you voted and when you didn’t.

But some information is private, including your date of birth and any part of your Social Security number. The N.C. State Board of Elections won’t send that private information to President Donald Trump’s “commission on election integrity.”

Many other states also take the position that this commission isn’t entitled to detailed, private data about millions of Americans.

Trump’s response came in the form of a tweet, of course: “Numerous states are refusing to give information to the very distinguished VOTER FRAUD PANEL. What are they trying to hide?”

A better question is what Trump is trying to accomplish.

He formed this commission after claiming that he would have won the popular vote in last year’s election if it weren’t for 3 million to 5 million illegal votes cast for Hillary Clinton. He had no evidence to back up the assertion, so he set out to find some.

Good luck. States audit their own elections to make sure they’re accurate. North Carolina’s State Board of Elections conducted an extensive review and found some 500 improper votes were cast, most by felons whose voting rights had not yet been restored. That hardly points to massive voter fraud.

The greater concern was the effort directed by the Russian government to interfere with our presidential election — which Trump barely acknowledges. It’s vital to build better protections against hacking and cyber-attacks before the Russians try again, yet the Trump administration is doing nothing on that front — unless it’s actually making us more vulnerable.

One of our best defenses is the diffused nature of our election system. Elections are run by state and local governments, making it difficult for computer hackers to tamper with a presidential election. So why does Trump’s commission want to collect detailed information about every American voter and deposit it in a centralized data bank? That seems like an invitation to hackers.

Since the president calls his commission a “voter fraud panel,” it’s obvious it begins its work assuming that Trump’s claims are true and that it aims to find all these fraudulent voters. Then it can recommend new restrictions on ballot access. Certainly, that has been the mission of its vice chairman, Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, who has pushed for tighter identification requirements in his state — whether they’re justified or not.

North Carolina Republicans have gone that route and been rebuked by the courts. The ballot should be secure, but that means protected from outside attack as much as it means safe from a very few illegal voters. Trump’s commission has a trust gap, and demanding personal data on millions of Americans isn’t helping.

— from the News & Record of Greensboro.


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