Secretary of State Jim Condos says President Donald Trump's Election Integrity Commission is a "partisan witch hunt" that has the goal of suppressing voting rights in the U.S. And for the time being, Condos says he will not comply with the commission's request that he turn over Vermont's voter data base to the panel.
The commission was created to investigate unsubstantiated claims of voter fraud in the 2016 presidential election.
The panel has asked all states to turn over their voter data bases by July 14. This information includes the Social Security numbers of individual voters.
Condos says the voter fraud claims are "bogus," and he's asked Attorney General T.J. Donovan to determine if Vermont has the legal authority not to comply with the commission's mandate.
"We're researching that to see if that's something that will give us some pause that we can use to prevent any information whatsoever,” Condos says. “My goal would be not to send any information."
Condos says he fears that the commission will intentionally misuse the data to create new restrictions on voting.
"Therefore, we must include photo ID, we must include shortening of early vote periods, tightening up absentee votes,” says Condos. “It will not be a non-partisan look at this, it will be a very partisan witch hunt to try to suppress the vote."
Condos' position has the strong support of the Vermont chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union.
"We think this is really a bogus commission, a coordinated attack on voting rights and we support Secretary Condos in his determination not to give this public information to the commission," says Chloe White, the Vermont ACLU's policy director..
White does acknowledge that the situation is a balancing act of providing access to public information and protecting privacy rights.
"We think though that this raises really substantial privacy concerns and we think the commission and any information they use will be used to justify unnecessary restrictions on our democracy,” says White. “We think really it's an invasion of the privacy rights of Vermonters."
Sen. Patrick Leahy says he strongly supports Condos' decision not to turn over the state's voter information to the commission.
In a written statement Leahy said the commission is "a sham based on false pretenses and that the true goal is further voter suppression."