What it will take for Trump's 'voter fraud' panel to get N.J. data: 65 cents

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Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach is vice chair of President Trump’s Advisory Commission on Election Integrity.

New Jersey says it has no plans to comply with President Trump’s “voter fraud” panel’s request for each state’s voter data, but the controversial federal commission can still get much of the information it’s seeking — as long as it has 65 cents at its disposal.

That’s what the state charges to any member of the public who requests the information and can make a trip to Trenton to pick up the CD with the data. Or they can pay $2.55 and get it by mail.

The CD lists every voter in the state, county by county, along with a unique voter ID number (which is not the Social Security number), address, date of birth, party affiliation, voter status (active or inactive), and the elections each has voted in — but not whom the person voted for. That’s forever secret.

Kris Kobach, the vice chair of the federal panel, officially the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity, recently penned letters to all 50 states and Washington, D.C., requesting such information, and more. Several categories of information requested by the federal commission aren’t included in the public data, such as Social Security numbers (the commission wants the last four digits), criminal history, and information regarding voter registration in another state.

Nearly all of the states that have responded have balked at sharing all or any of the information the panel is seeking. And last week, the commission told states to hold off on sending the data until a legal challenge is resolved. For now, New Jersey elections officials remain uncommitted.

“The Department of State/Division of Elections has no immediate plans to consider the commission’s request or to disclose any voter information,” Bob Giles, the director of New Jersey’s Division of Elections, said in a statement Friday.

In New Jersey, people registering to vote will find that the list of questions digs deeper than what the state shares with the public.

New applicants must declare that they are a U.S. citizen who has lived in the state for at least 30 days before the next election. If they have a state driver’s license they must provide the number or give the last four digits of their Social Security number. However, if they have neither, they can still register. They’re also asked for a phone number and email address, but those are optional.

If they do get their hands on the state’s data, federal investigators will find that a plurality of New Jersey’s 5.6 million registered voters are not affiliated with a major party. About 41 percent of registrants are unaffiliated, 37 percent identify as Democrats, and 22 percent as Republicans.

In Camden County, registered Democrats outnumber Republicans by 3-1. The 157,000 registered Democrats account for 45 percent of registered voters there. Taking into account that 40 percent of the voters are unaffiliated, the 50,000 registered Republicans make up only 14 percent of Camden’s voter roll. Hillary Clinton captured 64 percent of the county vote last year.

But voter registration records alone can’t predict the desire of an electorate. Trump won Gloucester County last year despite a 17 percent deficit in registered Republicans. A similar voter registration makeup was enough to carry Clinton in Burlington County.

Patrick Murray, the director of the Monmouth University Polling Institute, said the commission could, in theory, track voter fraud in New Jersey with the publicly available data. For instance, he said, the commission could see whether there are multiple registrations in different counties under the same name and date of birth. Murray added that most states have publicly available information similar to New Jersey’s.

Murray said there are cases in which people move from one place to another and counties don’t notify each other when people leave.

“That kind of stuff is going on,” he said. “It leaves open the potential for voting in multiple places.”

But Murray added that such problems are “clearly not an epidemic by any stretch of the imagination.” He said incidents of voter fraud are so infrequent that it could only affect a federal election if the election were decided by fewer than 20 votes.

In the letter to the states, Kobach requested that they disclose any voter fraud-related convictions that have occurred since the November 2000 federal elections. New Jersey election officials didn’t say whether there have been any such convictions in the state in that span, but Murray said he doesn’t know of any.

“I think we would know,” he said.

In Burlington County, officials work to keep their voter rolls up to date by inspecting criminal records and checking in on inactive voters, among other things, County Clerk Jim Hogan said. Hogan said voter fraud hasn’t been an issue in the county.

“The system is pretty good at shaking [voter fraud] out of it,” he said. “There are checks and balances.”

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