Donald Trump’s controversial voter fraud commission asked for files on every Texan with a Hispanic surname, newly released documents show.
The Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity made the request last year while applying to obtain nearly 50 million voter records from the state with the second-largest Hispanic population in the US.
On the data request form, policy adviser Ron Williams ticked a box asking for “Hispanic surname flag notation” to be included in the files.
Officials said the data was never supplied because a lawsuit filed by voting rights campaigners blocked the state from sending any information to the commission.
The commission, established after Mr Trump claimed “millions” of people voted illegally in the presidential election, was dissolved earlier this month amid mounting legal challenges and resistance from several states.
Documents obtained by Missouri Democrat Senator Claire McCaskill show the commission had paid for voter records from some states that refused to provide them for free. Among the files was an invoice for $3,437.30 to be paid to obtain data on 49.6 million registered voters in Texas, including the details of those with Hispanic surnames.
Kris Kobach, the Republican vice-chairman of the voting commission, told the Washington Post that the request was “a complete surprise to me”.
“At no time did the commission request any state to flag surnames by ethnicity or race,” he said.
Told about the Texas invoice, he added: “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”.
Mr Kobach said the data “does not, did not advance the commission’s inquiry in any way, and this is the first I’ve heard [that] the Texas files included that.”
He added: “I don’t know what sort of data analysis you would do even remotely relevant to it, but also having just one state [would be] useless. It just doesn’t make any sense.”
Mr Trump’s commission was denounced by civil rights group when it was set up in May, and was feared by some to be an attempt to suppress voting among ethnic minorities.
Maine Secretary of State Matt Dunlap, a former member and vocal critic of the commission, said the request for Hispanic data raised “grave questions about exactly what the commission hoped to find and what ‘problems’ it planned on solving”.
“[It] gives room for no small amount of alarm in the very possibility that an American citizen could be suspected of voter misconduct based on their ethnicity,” he told CNN.
The watchdog group American Oversight has filed a Freedom of Information request for all files related to the application for Hispanic voter data in Texas.
Mr Dunlap filed one of several lawsuits that had hobbled Mr Trump’s commission before his decision to scrap it.
Announcing the disbandment on 3 January, the White House said: “Despite substantial evidence of voter fraud, many states have refused to provide the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity with basic information relevant to its inquiry.
“Rather than engage in endless legal battles at taxpayer expense, today President Donald J Trump signed an executive order to dissolve the Commission, and he has asked the Department of Homeland Security to review its initial findings and determine next courses of action.”
Mr Trump launched the commission after claiming, without any evidence, that he only lost the popular vote in the election because “millions” of people voted illegally for his Democratic rival Hillary Clinton.