Denver Voters Withdraw Registrations In Response To Trump's Data Request

Jul 12, 2017
Originally published on July 12, 2017 5:34 pm
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KELLY MCEVERS, HOST:

Colorado has one of the highest levels of voter registration per capita in the country. But now some people in Denver want to unregister to vote.

AMBER MCREYNOLDS: To see more people withdrawing in a day than new registrations is certainly something that I never expected to see in my over-12-years of administering elections.

MCEVERS: That's Amber McReynolds. She's the director of elections in Denver. And she wrote in The Denver Post this week about how a large number of people there are asking to be taken off the voter rolls. She says it's a response to President Trump's investigation into voter fraud in the 2016 election. Trump says he would have won the popular vote had it not been for people voting illegally.

A commission set up by the White House has asked states to provide details on voters like name, political party and the last four digits of their Social Security numbers. That request is now on hold because of a legal challenge. But still, Amber McReynolds says in Denver, at least, record numbers of people are asking to be taken off the voter rolls. I asked just how many requests for office is getting.

MCREYNOLDS: I think at this point we're probably between 500 and 600 in the last week. Normally in a week, we see eight - so literally, like, a handful of people that withdraw that are moving out of state or what have you.

MCEVERS: Wow.

MCREYNOLDS: We've received numerous emails, phone calls, written comments from voters that all, you know, have indicated that they want to withdraw their information because they're concerned about their privacy.

MCEVERS: Do you get a sense of whether these voters are mostly Democrats, mostly Republicans, independent or a mix of all the above?

MCREYNOLDS: We've seen a mix. Denver - our party affiliation breaks down as about 49 percent Dem and then about 35 percent unaffiliated. And then Republicans make up the rest. But we've seen withdrawals happening across all affiliations.

MCEVERS: What do you tell people when they tell you that they're worried about how their information is going to be used by this commission?

MCREYNOLDS: Well, we explain that under Colorado law - and every state is different in terms of what data is available for public consumption. But in our lives, Social Security number, driver's license, month and day of birth, signature and also email address are not publicly available, meaning that they cannot be provided to this commission. The request that the commission made was for all of those personal identifying factors. And under Colorado law, that can't be provided. So the data set going is publicly available. So we have been explaining that to voters, encouraging them to stay registered. But a lot of people have said, no, I want to withdraw.

MCEVERS: And you wrote about this in an opinion piece for The Denver Post. Why do you think it's important to talk about this publicly?

MCREYNOLDS: Well, one of the things that drove me to write about it is - the right to vote and also the right to privacy are two of the rights that we have under the Constitution that Americans actually put at the top of the list in terms of their freedoms. So it doesn't surprise me at all that people are concerned about this.

And then I think that there's also - among the public, I think there has been confusion about the request itself, the data being provided and then ultimately what its use will be. And I certainly have not seen a clearly defined mission or statement with regards to what the commission will do with the data, what, you know, their goals are with the data and with their work. And that perhaps would be helpful for voters and citizens to hear so that their confusion about the issue perhaps decreases.

MCEVERS: You know, someone from the White House might hear that people are withdrawing their names from the voter registration rolls and say, well, you know, maybe that's evidence that these people registered fraudulently, and they're trying to avoid being caught. What would you say to that?

MCREYNOLDS: I don't think that it's people that are fraudulently registered to vote that are withdrawing. And in fact I've talked to a few of the voters. I've read through many of the emails that have come in. And these are not people that don't reside in Colorado anymore. In fact one lady that I spoke to is heavily engaged in the community, has been for many years. And you know, she specifically said, I do not think that my information should be going to the federal government. States run elections. You all have my information to facilitate the voting process for me, and it doesn't need to go elsewhere.

So this is impacting people's lives directly. This is impacting people's abilities to civically engage. And it shouldn't be a partisan fight. It should be about doing what's best for the voters in the voting process in and of itself. And I think that's what our voters and our citizens expect.

MCEVERS: Amber McReynolds, director of elections in the city and county of Denver, thank you so much.

MCREYNOLDS: You're welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.