COLUMBIA — What the White House wants, it seems, the White House gets.
South Carolina voter information is heading to an election fraud panel started by President Donald Trump despite the S.C. Election Commission declining the group's data request Thursday.
S.C. Republican Party Chairman Drew McKissick said he will buy the S.C. voter data — as is allowed by state law — and send it to the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity.
In an interview with The Post and Courier, the GOP boss disputed accusations of skirting the system, saying he wasn’t giving the Trump administration anything beyond what they might have been able to get otherwise were it not for laws preventing non-South Carolina registered voters from requesting the information.
“The real issue it’s becoming a political issue is because it is being made available to a commission run by President Trump,” said McKissick.
Trump’s critics were “crying like stuck pigs,” McKissick said.
The data can be purchased for $2,500 by South Carolina registered voters as long as its not used for commercial purposes. Typical purchasers are political campaigns and pollsters.
South Carolina sells some voter information, including names, addresses, voting history and dates of birth. The state Election Commission does not collect some of the additional information requested by the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity, which nationally is also seeking the last four digits of Social Security numbers, military service records and felony records.
Gov. Henry McMaster, an early Trump backer in the 2016 presidential campaign, did not have a comment Thursday but has supported releasing publicly available voter information.
However, many state voters from both parties have objected to sharing voter data with the presidential commission. Some fear joining a central database with voter information from states across the country would be a tempting target for hackers.
McKissick's agreed purchase came after the S.C. Election Commission struck down the White House request for voter data over state law.
"The (election commission) has carefully reviewed the request and applicable state law and has consulted with the S.C. Attorney General’s office," agency spokesman Chris Whitmire said. "The (commission) has determined that the agency is not permitted to share voter data with anyone from outside the state. The (commission) can only provide voter data to a registered South Carolina voter."
Whitmire said the commission's decision is not a rebuke of the request from the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity.
"This would apply to any requestor of this information from outside the state, whether a university researcher, media outlet, or other individual or entity," he said.
Nothing prevents a registered state voter from buying the state election data and sending it to the Trump-created commission, like what McKissick is doing, Whitmire said.
McKissick said the state GOP S.C. Republican Party purchases voter data regularly and oftentimes splits the $2,500 fee with the S.C. Democratic Party, which also uses the records.
“We saw what was happening with the state Election Commission decision as a result of the law,” McKissick said, “and why wouldn’t we basically make the file available to the government when we’re already going to have a copy of it?”
S.C. Democratic Party Chairman Trav Robertson expressed dismay that McKissick would purchase state voter data on behalf of the White House.
"The possession of such sensitive information by this disgraceful group endangers our civil liberties, threatens our voting rights, and undermines confidence in our elections," Robertson said. "South Carolina Democrats, independents and Republicans who put country over party will continue to fight so that all eligible South Carolinians can exercise their right to vote, which previous generations sacrificed so much to secure."
At least 14 other states and the District of Columbia have refused the White House's request for voter data. Most cited invasion of privacy.
Kris Kobach, the Kansas Secretary of State and vice chair of the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity, hinted Wednesday the White House would find other ways to get voter data.
"(T)his bipartisan commission ... will continue its work to gather the facts through public records requests to ensure the integrity of each American's vote because the public has a right to know,” he said.
The White House panel, led by Vice President Mike Pence, requested voter information from all 50 states last week. Most states have agreed to send the panel voter information that is available to the public. No states have agreed to send all the information requested by the presidential commission.
Trump created the election integrity panel after he blamed unspecified acts of voter fraud for losing the popular vote to Democrat Hillary Clinton. Trump won the Palmetto State handily by more than 300,000 votes.
South Carolina election officials said they did not receive any reports of widespread voter fraud last year. No concrete evidence has been found elsewhere across the country to back the president's allegations.
Emma Dumain contributed to this report.