CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa — In response to an open-records request, Secretary of State Paul Pate has turned over the “sum total” of correspondence between his office and the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity — two emails.
The American Civil Liberties Union of Iowa requested the correspondence as part of its nationwide effort to gather all communications between the commission and state election officials.
ACLU could have made a “simple inquiry” rather than go through the public records request process, Pate said. He suggested ACLU’s intent was “not to obtain information, but to receive media coverage.”
ACLU of Iowa rejected that criticism, but Executive Director Mark Stringer said the organization is satisfied with Pate’s response.
“We believe that the people have a right to know about the activities of President Trump and the commission,” he said in a statement Monday.
The emails Pate made available were one from the advisory committee Vice Chairman Kris Kobach, the Kansas secretary of state, asking for voter data as well as Pate’s thoughts on laws, policies and practices that “enhance or undermine the American people’s confidence in the integrity of the electoral process.” The second email asked the state not turn over the publicly available information until a judge rules on a legal challenge to the request.
Pate had not turned over voter information. However, a federal judge ruled Monday the commission could move forward with collecting voter data from 50 states, saying the White House advisory panel is exempt from federal privacy review requirements.
The ACLU of Iowa is reviewing the ruling. It challenged the commission on the grounds that its first meeting, which was held via telephone, violated federal open-meeting requirements and that the commission refused to turn over working papers and other documents that, by law, should be available for public inspection.
Its second meeting was livestreamed via the internet.
The commission has not reached out to the Secretary of State since the ruling, but “will have to go through the formal process just like everyone else,” Pate spokesman Kevin Hall said.
Public available data the secretary can provide with voter list requests includes name, address, date of birth, party affiliation and in which elections a person voted, Hall said. By law, Social Security and driver’s license numbers are automatically redacted.
Some people are under the mistaken impression the commission also is asking for information on for whom Iowans voted, Hall said.
“There is no record of who you voted for,” he said.
Despite the court’s ruling, the ACLU remains concerned the commission’s efforts are “part of a larger effort to suppress the vote,” ACLU’s Stringer said.
Pate, a Republican elected in 2014, took offense to what he considered ACLU’s implication that he and his office “would even indirectly engage in vote suppression.”
“Instead of these scare tactics, organizations such as the ACLU would better serve voters by helping them understand that their personal information will not be compromised by registering and voting,” Pate wrote.
It’s “obviously ridiculous” for Pate to suggest “that shining a light on those activities as a part of our watchdog function to protect voters is itself suppression,” Stringer said.