When President Donald Trump’s commission on election fraud asked every state to turn over information on its voters last summer, civil rights groups across the country worried that the effort could be used to target black and Latino voters.
In the case of at least one state, they were right.
When filling out a form requesting information on Texas’ voter registration records for the Presidential Advisory Committee on Election Integrity, commission policy adviser Ronald Williams II checked a box asking Texas to flag Hispanic surnames when turning over the records, the Washington Post reported Monday. He also signed a notarized form as part of that request.
VICE News’ attempts to reach Williams by phone and email were not successful, but the task force’s vice chairman, Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, disavowed Williams’ request.
“At no time did the commission request any state to flag surnames by ethnicity or race. It’s a complete surprise to me,” Kobach initially told the Washington Post. When the Post informed him that, in fact, the commission had done so, Kobach said, “Mr. Williams did not ask any member of the commission whether he should check that box or not, so it certainly wasn’t a committee decision.”
He added, “I don’t know what sort of data analysis you would do even remotely relevant to it.” Having that data for just one state, Kobach said, “just doesn’t make any sense.”
Williams’ purported request would have also surfaced a whole lot of names, since Texas has one of the highest concentrations of Latino individuals in the United States — nearly 3.6 million registered voters have Hispanic surnames, Texas’ secretary of state told the Post.
Because voting rights advocates in Texas sued over task force’s request, the commission never received the state’s data. And now it never will: In early January, Trump broke up the task force for good. Though Trump again reiterated that there was “substantial evidence of voter fraud” in the 2016 election — despite the fact that several studies have yet to find that evidence — he said he preferred to avoid waging “endless legal battles at taxpayer expense.”
The report also isn’t the first time Williams’ association with the commission has led him has made the news: Last October, he was charged on several counts of possession and intent to distribute child pornography, public records show.