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Aug 8, 2017 2:03 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

Local Community Leaders Worry That Voter Info Given To Federal Commission Will Deter Registration

Voting booth in Bridgehampton. JEN NEWMAN
Aug 8, 2017 2:49 PM

The New York State Board of Elections has handed over statewide voter information to a federal commission looking into voter fraud in the 2016 presidential election, and some East End community leaders fear the move will dissuade some residents from registering to vote, concerned over privacy issues.

Earlier this summer, the board and Governor Andrew Cuomo said they would not comply with a request from President Donald Trump’s Advisory Commission on Election Integrity. The commission sought voter data—including the last four digits of Social Security numbers and driver’s license numbers for each registered voter in the state.

Recently, the commission scaled back its request to information that is publicly available to anyone through the state’s Freedom of Information Law—and the board of elections agreed to give the commission that data at the beginning of August.

In Suffolk County alone, there are roughly one million active and inactive voters whose information—including names, addresses and voting histories—was given to the commission from the statewide voter database, according to board of elections data from April.

This week, Robert Freeman, executive director of the New York State Committee on Open Government, pointed to a section of state law that deals with sharing information on databases, which he said would include the voter registration list. It states that the information should be used only for election purposes, which Mr. Freeman said typically occurs prior to an election campaign, not after. But that section of the law, he added, is open to interpretation.

Releasing statewide voter information is nothing new, he said. In fact, according to Mr. Freeman, the same information has been given out in New York State 1,300 times.

“If they disclosed this on 1,300 occasions, how could they possibly justifying denying access?” Mr. Freeman said of the board of elections. “In terms of this part—disclosure—I don’t find it to be the part that’s bothersome. More bothersome is the claim of voter fraud by the president when there is no evidence. He has claimed millions committed voter fraud in the election—find me three of them.”

One step further is the concern that giving the commission voter information will scare off would-be voters, particularly minorities who have a substantial population on the East End, said Minerva Perez, executive director of Organización Latino-Americana of Eastern Long Island.

“This newest attack on our American liberties is pretty atrocious,” she said. “I think it’s a bully tactic—it’s a threat. It says, ‘We’re watching you.’ It will suppress voter turnout. It will suppress voter registration, to some degree. Even if it’s a percentage point—that’s too much.”

Although it is too soon to tell if that will indeed be the case, the League of Women Voters, a national non-partisan political organization, has received calls from voters asking to talk about “unregistering” to remain anonymous since the approval of the release of voter information at the beginning of the month, according to Jennifer Wilson, the organization’s program and policy director. In a statement, Ms. Wilson said the league has encouraged voters to get registered, stay registered and vote despite what is going on in Washington, D.C.

“Although the release of this information through Freedom of Information Law requests is not uncommon, this particular request is a veiled threat to our state’s voters,” Ms. Wilson said. “It is our fear that the collection of this data will ultimately lead to an increase in voter suppression. The commission is already having a negative impact on our voters.”

According to Carol Mellor, a member of the League of Women Voters of the Hamptons board of directors, who also sits on the organization’s state board, the League’s state office has received approximately 30 calls from concerned residents so far asking to “unregister.”

Locally, Mr. Perez said she expects this decision to make it more difficult for her organization to engage new voters. She said because of recent federal policies that target minority and immigrants, it is more important now, more than ever, to have nonprofit organizations like OLA engage the public on their rights and to increase voter education.

“We’re having a harder time registering,” she said, due to the commission’s push. “This news is out there. The unfortunate thing is that it’s such a delicate balance already, especially on the East End.”

When reached for comment this week, Jennifer DiSiena, the communications director for U.S. Representative Lee Zeldin, who represents the East End, reiterated that all of the information provided to the commission could already be publicly obtained.

“Congressman Zeldin supports improving our electoral process,” she added.

Emails to the Suffolk County Board of Elections were not immediately returned.

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It should scare the democrats. Maybe they shouldn't have enrolled dead people and illegals in their quest to run America into the ground?

By TrueHamptons (10), Sag Harbor on Aug 8, 17 3:50 PM
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