Wis. to Partially Refuse Trump's Request for Voter Records | Wisconsin Public Television

Wis. to Partially Refuse Trump's Request for Voter Records

Home » Here & Now » Wis. to Partially Refuse Trump's Request for Voter Records
Premiere Date: 
July 7, 2017

Wis. to Partially Refuse Trump's Request for Voter Records

The Trump administration wants states to hand over voting records in its supposed effort to address election fraud. In a letter sent to Wisconsin, the special commission wants names, addresses, birthdates, partial social security numbers, voting history, and more. We speak to Reid Magney of the Wisconsin Elections Commission, who explains that under state law, they cannot supply that information.

Episode Transcript

Frederica Freyberg:

More in our first look tonight. The president wants states to hand over voting records in an effort to ferret out fraud that could undermine the integrity of the federal elections process. The Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity wants registration records, including names, addresses, dates of birth, political party, last four digits of social security numbers, voting history and more. A number of states have said they will not comply. What will Wisconsin do? For that answer, we turn to Reid Magney of the Wisconsin Elections Commission. Thanks for being here.

Reid Magney:

You're welcome.

Frederica Freyberg:

As to that question, what will Wisconsin do?

Reid Magney:

Under Wisconsin law there are some things in a voter record that are public:  your name, your address and the list of elections that you voted in. But that's really all. I mean, if you're a military or overseas voter, that might be part of it. But things like your date of birth, your driver license number, the last four digits of your social security number are all confidential and we never give those out.

Frederica Freyberg:

Not even to the president.

Reid Magney:

That’s not permitted. We can give them to law enforcement, but this commission doesn't qualify as law enforcement.

Frederica Freyberg:

So just to be clear, those things from Wisconsin will not be submitted to this commission.

Reid Magney:

We’re not permitted to give that out under state law.

Frederica Freyberg:

But you will give out all that is public under Wisconsin law.

Reid Magney:

Well, they can buy the list from us if they want. Wisconsin, in Wisconsin, we charge for that information. It helps pay for the system, lessens the burden on taxpayers. The cost of that list is $12,500. So we are going to respond to them and say here's how you can get the list. Give us your credit card if you want it.

Frederica Freyberg:

Have you gotten any response to that? Because I know that that was put out there before, that that was Wisconsin’s response, that you can buy it if you want it.

Reid Magney:

We haven't had any interaction with them. We just got the letter from them on Wednesday. It went to the Secretary of State's office instead of the Wisconsin Elections Commission. And we're working on a response. We should have one next week.

Frederica Freyberg:

But you think that's what it's going to be.

Reid Magney:

Oh, yes. Absolutely. We're going to let them know that if they want the list, they need to buy it.

Frederica Freyberg:

Now, what do you say about concerns that the information submitted to this commission will be used to lay the groundwork for voter suppression?

Reid Magney:

One of the things that we've learned about using the list is that you need a lot of detailed information, like things like dates of birth and social security numbers and driver license numbers, to be able to do list matching. I think people are afraid that this list will be matched against other lists. The list in its current form with a person's name, address and voting history may not -- you don't get much out of having that other than a list of here are the names of people who are registered. But in terms of matching it with things in other states or other databases, it may not be of much use.

Frederica Freyberg:

Have you ever seen a request like this from the federal government?

Reid Magney:

No.

Frederica Freyberg:

And what do you make of it?

Reid Magney:

I think that they're looking for information. They're trying to put together some sort of -- something to be able to look at the nation's voters, you know. It's not really our job to look at the motivation. That's one of the things in Wisconsin’s public records law. You don't look at the motivation for a request. If you can fulfill it, you do. And in this case, we can, but if they pay.

Frederica Freyberg:

As for concerns about the integrity of the elections process having to do with fraud or impersonation, how concerned are we about that in Wisconsin?

Reid Magney:

Voter impersonation is extremely rare in Wisconsin. It was before the voter id law went into effect and it continues to be very small now. It is not -- it's not a major concern.

Frederica Freyberg:

There was suggestion at recent Washington hearings that Russian hackers targeted voter registration records in the 2016 elections. Did that happen, to your knowledge, in Wisconsin?

Reid Magney:

Not at all. It happened in Illinois and it happened in Arizona. And there were some separate attempts to infiltrate a vendor who works in Florida and some other states. We don't do business with that vendor. Most of the voter list maintenance is really done by clerks and state workers. We don't have vendors who do that work for us.

Frederica Freyberg:

So Russian hackers didn't get into our election process.

Reid Magney:

No, they did not.

Frederica Freyberg:

And did you ever in your wildest imagination think that you would be talking about Russian hackers?

Reid Magney:

I did not.

Frederica Freyberg:

And we -- you believe, again, though, that Wisconsin kind of was impervious to any of that because of the way we're set up so decentralized?

Reid Magney:

Yes. You're right. We have a very decentralized system in Wisconsin, the most decentralized in the country. We have 1,852 municipal clerks who maintain the local lists in a system that is set up by the state. And we have detected no problems.

Frederica Freyberg:

All right. Well, we'll be looking for the letter that comes out of your office to this commission in coming days.

Reid Magney:

Thank you.

Frederica Freyberg:

Reid Magney, thanks a lot.

Share this page

Have questions, comments, or story ideas?


WisContext

WisContext serves the residents of Wisconsin, providing information and insight into issues as they affect the state.