MONTPELIER — Vermont Attorney General T.J. Donovan says his office is reviewing a request from President Donald Trump’s Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity to determine if Secretary of State Jim Condos is required to provide information sought by the commission.
The president launched the commission earlier this year after losing the popular vote by nearly 3 million votes to Democrat Hillary Clinton in the 2016 election. Trump claimed that 3 to 5 million people voted illegally in the election, although that unsubstantiated claim has been widely panned by experts.
Last week the commission requested personal voter information from all 50 states, including birthdates, drivers license numbers, parts of Social Security numbers and information about criminal records and military service. Condos initially said he would provide limited information that is already public record.
After hearing from Vermonters, however, Condos said Monday he will not send any information until his concerns are addressed. He said the email address the commission provided to send the information is not secure.
“I replied to the commission’s request for information asking how this data will be used, transferred securely and stored in a secure manner. I have not received a response, and I refuse to respond or comply with any part of this data request until I receive answers to these important questions,” Condos said Monday. “I am working with the Vermont Attorney General’s Office to understand all of our options, and we will take the full amount of time allotted to respond with what information that is already publicly available, if any, will be provided.”
Donovan said Wednesday his office is reviewing the request from the commission and was planning to meet Wednesday with Condos. Donovan said his legal advice to Condos on whether the state must respond will consider “the motive and the intent of the request.”
“We’re certainly going to look at the intent of the request,” he said. “I don’t quite understand the intent behind this. We’re going to look at it.”
Donovan said his initial thought upon learning of the commission’s request is that it would be used “as an attempt to disenfranchise folks from voting.”
“Who Vermonters vote for, voters’ personal identifiable information, that’s private information,” Donovan said. “That’s their business. That’s not the government’s business.”
Condos called the commission’s request a “witch hunt” and also questioned its motives.
“At best this commission is a waste of taxpayer money, and at worst its true purpose is to champion the president’s false and baseless claims of voter fraud to aggressively pursue a campaign of voter suppression and intimidation,” he said.
More than 40 states are planning to partially or fully reject the commission’s request for voter information.
Sen. Patrick Leahy voiced support for Condos’ position Wednesday, saying the commission is “a sham based on false pretenses.”
“Vermonters value our voting rights as a solemn and foundational right of citizenship and a pillar of our democracy. We are proud of our state’s proven and trusted record of integrity in our electoral process,” Leahy said in a statement. “Secretary of State Condos is right to do all he can to protect Vermonters’ voting information and the integrity of our system. In Vermont, Republicans and Democrats and Independents protect the integrity of our system — we don’t need a political overseer.”