Maine Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap has changed course and decided against releasing detailed information about every registered voter in the state to the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity.

Dunlap said he met Monday with Attorney General Janet Mills and she advised him that releasing Maine’s Central Voter Registration files to the commission would violate state laws that protect personal voter-registration data from being made public.

On Friday, Dunlap had said he would provide the commission with some information that was identified as publicly available. The request, dated June 28, was made to all 50 states by Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, the commission’s vice chair.

Dunlap serves on the commission, which was formed this year by President Trump to investigate allegations of widespread fraud in the 2016 presidential election. Trump has claimed that millions of illegal votes cost him the popular vote in that election.

Dunlap, a Democrat who opposed having Maine comply with the federal Real ID law because he didn’t trust in the government’s ability to protect private and personal identifying information, defended his position on the election integrity commission, saying he accepted the post because he wants Maine to have a voice on the panel. He reasons that if he were not on the commission, the state’s viewpoint would be ignored.

Democrats claim the panel is merely looking for ways to suppress the vote. As of Monday, more than two dozen states have completely rejected or complied partially with the commission’s request for voter registration records.

Last week, Dunlap told the Portland Press Herald that in accordance with state law, Maine would comply with parts of the request by providing each voter’s name, address, year of birth and voter status, but the state would not provide party affiliation, voting history, Social Security numbers or specific date of birth.

“The inbox at the Secretary of State’s Office filled right up (after the story), but I’m not surprised by that, especially when you have an issue like this,” Dunlap said Monday.

He said he took a couple of days to analyze the commission’s request in more detail, and after consulting Monday with Mills, he replied to Kobach. In a letter dated July 3, he denied the commission’s request and said no voter registration data from Maine would be provided.

Dunlap expressed concern about a clause in the request warning Maine officials that any documents submitted to the full commission would be made available to the public.

“That conflicts with state statute, which states that information contained electronically in the central voter registration system and any information or reports generated by the system are confidential and may only be accessed by municipal and state election officials,” Dunlap said in the letter.

‘It’s one thing to get the information, but the real question is what do you do with the information after you have it. … By releasing this information, it could have a chilling effect on getting people to register to vote.’

— Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap

In a telephone interview Monday night, Dunlap said the problem is straightforward.

“(The commission) can’t guarantee it won’t be made public,” he said. “It’s one thing to get the information, but the real question is what do you do with the information after you have it. We want to make sure that we are following the law. By releasing this information, it could have a chilling effect on getting people to register to vote.”

Mills called the commission’s request “outrageous” and questioned the commission’s purpose, adding, “All the stuff they are asking for is very personal.”

“When a person signs up to register to vote, the presumption is those records are going to be confidential. People should not be afraid to register to vote,” Mills said. “It’s a real Big Brother move on the part of the federal government to try to get private information on every registered voter in the country. It’s way over the top.”

Some of the nation’s most populous states, including California and New York, are refusing to comply with the request. But even some conservative states that voted for Trump, such as Texas, say they can provide only partial responses based on what is legally allowed under state law.

Maryland Attorney General Brian E. Frosh, a Democrat, issued a harsh statement Monday saying that Maryland will not comply with the request because it violates state law.

“I find this request for the personal information of millions of Marylanders repugnant. It appears designed only to intimidate voters and to indulge President Trump’s fantasy that he won the popular vote,” Frosh said in his statement. “Repeating incessantly a false story of expansive voter fraud, and then creating a commission to fuel that narrative, does not make it any more true.”

Dennis Hoey can be contacted at 791-6365 or at:

dhoey@pressherald.com