President Donald Trump’s election fraud commission ignited a bipartisan backlash when it asked states for a list of every registered voter, including birth dates and partial Social Security numbers.

Minnesota Secretary of State Steve Simon was among the 44 state election officials who refused to hand over some or all of the data, according to a tally by CNN.

Simon, a DFLer, said in a June 30 statement that he wouldn’t provide “sensitive personal information” about nearly 4 million Minnesota voters, saying he believed the commission was a “partisan tool to shut out millions of eligible American voters.”

But if the commission found a Minnesota voter to ask for the list and paid $46, Simon would have little choice but to give it up.

In fact, Kris Kobach, the Kansas election chief who’s vice chair of the commission, could walk only a few blocks from the White House to find two political consulting groups that have recent downloads of Minnesota voter information, including names, addresses and recent elections in which they’ve voted.

Under Minnesota law, the secretary of state must make the following voter data available: name, address, phone number (if available), birth year and voting history in recent primary and general elections. The history does not include which candidates the voter chose.

Yet this data has strings attached. For nearly all public data in Minnesota, anyone can ask for it and there are no restrictions on its use.

To get the list of registered voters, you must be a voter yourself. And you can use it only for “elections, political activities or law enforcement” purposes.

Since January 2016, the secretary of state has provided 98 copies of the statewide voter list to individuals and organizations, including the Star Tribune, according to records obtained through a data request.

The most frequent requester was Jordan Krentz of Lakeville, who was acting on behalf of Data Trust, a Washington group that collects voter data nationwide. “This data is shared solely with center-right political clients who use it for election or political purposes,” spokesman Chad Kolton said via e-mail.

Alan Mendelsohn of Minneapolis obtained the data for Catalist, also in Washington. “Catalist provides data and data-related services exclusively to progressive organizations to help them better identify, understand, and communicate with the people they need to persuade and mobilize,” its website says.

It’s hard to imagine how modern political campaigns would operate if they lacked access to voter lists.

Nevertheless, the prospect of the White House acquiring a database of every voter under murky pretenses accomplished a political feat: uniting Minnesota and Mississippi. The Mississippi secretary of state, Delbert Hosemann, a Republican, told the commission to “jump in the Gulf of Mexico.”

Bert Black, legal adviser for the Minnesota secretary of state, said Simon has the discretion to share the voter list more widely, but was not legally required to give it to Kobach because he’s not a registered Minnesota voter.

I got no response to my inquiry to the commission about whether it would enlist a Minnesotan to help.

In a statement, Kobach said his commission will soldier on: “Despite media distortions and obstruction by a handful of state politicians, this bipartisan commission on election integrity will continue its work to gather the facts through public records requests to ensure the integrity of each American’s vote because the public has a right to know.”

 

Contact James Eli Shiffer at james.shiffer@startribune.com or 612-673-4116.