The request is part of the Trump administration’s campaign against alleged voter fraud. ‘I am sure we can stand up to the scrutiny the Department of Justice can bring,’ Secretary of State Kim Wyman said.
The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) is seeking new information from Washington state elections officials as the Trump administration pushes to unearth evidence of potential voter fraud across the country.
Last week, the White House’s new voting-fraud commission made a sweeping and controversial request for data on the nation’s voters, including from Washington state. That led to blowback and refusals to hand over private information.
On Monday, Washington’s chief election official, Secretary of State Kim Wyman, revealed the Justice Department has sought additional information from her office.
Wyman, a Republican, released a four-page letter from a top Justice Department lawyer, which seeks details on how the state is ensuring the accuracy of its voter lists and keeping ineligible voters off the rolls, as required by the National Voter Registration Act (NVRA).
Most Read Local Stories
- Severity of 'bomb cyclone' uncertain, but Seattle area should prepare for wind, rain and power outages
- 'Bomb cyclone' expected in the Seattle area. Here's what to know
- Why losing daily walks to rainy season is hitting us hard — and what to do about it
- Amanda Knox was exonerated. That doesn’t mean she’s free
- Coronavirus daily news updates, October 22: What to know today about COVID-19 in the Seattle area, Washington state and the world
In a news conference, Wyman said she’s not worried about the request because county auditors have been doing a good job of keeping voter rolls as clean as possible.
“I am sure we can stand up to the scrutiny the Department of Justice can bring,” Wyman said.
In the Justice Department letter, T. Christian Herren Jr., chief of the voting section, asked for “all statutes, regulations, written guidance, internal policies or database user manuals” that show how Washington removes voters who have moved or died.
The letter also asks for names of officials responsible for carrying out that work and whether the state is monitoring local election administrators to ensure voter registrations are legitimate.
It also requests data Washington failed to provide in 2014 as part of a federal survey related to voter registrations.
“We very much appreciate your cooperation in our nationwide efforts to monitor NVRA compliance,” Herren wrote.
The June 28 letter was dated the same day as the separate request by the Presidential Commission on Election Integrity, Trump’s voter-fraud probe, which sought a wide swath of voter data, including birth dates, felony-conviction records, voting histories, driver’s-license numbers and the last four digits of all voters’ Social Security numbers.
Wyman has said she’ll only provide voter information that is already publicly available to anyone via a state website.
A DOJ spokeswoman in Seattle referred questions about the letter to a spokesman in Washington, D.C., who did not respond to requests for comment on Monday.
At least one national group has raised the alarm over the DOJ request.
In a news release on its website, the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) said the unprecedented DOJ letter had gone to 44 states.
“Despite the extraordinary nature of the request the DOJ offered no explanation or justification for the sudden broad-based request,” Eleni Kyriakides, a law fellow with EPIC, wrote in a June 30 Freedom of Information Act request to the Justice Department.
Kyriakides noted the DOJ request appeared only interested in investigating enforcement of the parts of the NVRA that deal with culling ineligible voters, but not the parts encouraging more people to register to vote.
At her news conference, Wyman rejected, as she has previously, claims by Trump and his allies that U.S. elections are rife with voter fraud.
Those assertions have been disproved repeatedly by nonpartisan fact-checking organizations and researchers.
“If we were seeing evidence of it, you would see prosecutions in court,” Wyman said, calling suggestions of a widespread vote-fraud conspiracy “ludicrous on its face.”