Cuomo right to deny voter records

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Gov. Andrew Cuomo was right, for a variety of reasons, to turn down a blanket request for information from the new Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity on every registered voter in the state.

In doing so, the governor was protecting the privacy of New York voters and ensuring that the federal government doesn’t make it easier for others to access that information from some unsecured federal database.

On a broader level, the governor rightly fears that the federal government might use the information to suppress voter turnout, particularly among minorities and legal immigrants, and to force states to enact tougher registration laws and purge their voter rolls of legitimate voters. Finally, he said the blanket denial was made so as not to “perpetuate the myth of voter fraud.”

The information sought by the commission will expose New York voters and those in other states to a vast violation of their privacy. And having done that, it ikely won’t have the desired effect of rooting out voter fraud.

Some of the information sought by the presidential commission in a letter to all 50 states is already public record in New York. That includes your name, address and political affiliation. In some cases, certain voters like domestic violence victims can request to have their information kept from the public. If Cuomo turns over what the commission requested, that information might be disclosed.

But even the information that is public is not posted online or easily accessible.

Someone would have to request it through the state Freedom of Information Law (FOIL), as state political organizations already do. If the commission on voter fraud really wants that information, it doesn’t have to go through Cuomo. They can FOIL it like everybody else.

But the commission’s request went far beyond seeking public information, to include such information as the last four digits of voters’ Social Security numbers, which isn’t public in New York. The commission also wanted information regarding felony convictions, voter registration in other states, military status, and overseas citizen information.

That leads us to the other issue — whether the information requested would actually be effective in identifying voter fraud. According to experts, it wouldn’t.

Because states keep their own different sets of records, it would be impossible for the federal government to create and maintain an accurate database. Because of errors and people with identical or similar names and spellings, it’s very possible the feds would falsely identify some legal voters as fraudulent. They also could falsely identify people as felons if they have the same name as one. And just because someone is registered in multiple places doesn’t mean they’ve voted more than once. And as for tracking down illegal immigrants who voted, voter rolls would be unhelpful because of the different way such records are kept.

So Cuomo was right to outright reject the request, both for the privacy of individual voters and for the integrity of our voting system.

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