A strange thing happened a few days ago when Secretary of State Lawerence Denney checked his private email account.

He saw an “official” request from President Trump’s Presidential Commission on Election Integrity, asking for extensive personal information of Idaho voters – such as voting history from 2006 onward, military status, information on felony convictions and the last four digits of voters’ Social Security numbers.

So there you have it, folks, the federal government working for YOU. Trump’s bumbling commission didn’t have the grace, or ability, to get that request to Denney’s “official” email address.

But that’s not the worst of it. This group of geniuses are creating a database to store all this voter information from 50 states, creating convenient one-stop shopping for hackers. The Russians must be licking their chops.

And for what purpose? Trump and his commissioners say it’s about combatting voter fraud, although there’s no evidence to suggest outside of Trump’s mind that widespread fraud exists. Critics, including some of those pesky purveyors of “fake news,” say it’s all about voter suppression and giving Republicans the upper hand in elections. Others say it’s about Trump trying to prove once and for all that he – and not Hillary Clinton – won the popular vote.

Denney won’t venture a guess of the motive. “I’m not sure I’d want to know,” he said, chuckling.

If the motivation is to turn over elections to the federal government, the commission will have a fight on its hands getting it through Denney and his colleagues.

“I don’t trust the federal government, whether it’s Republican or Democrat,” Denney says.

It’s no wonder that some secretaries basically told the commission to take the requests and shove it. Denney doesn’t go that far. He feels obligated to honor public-record requests, without trying to figure out the motive behind those requests. And he’s not about to spit in the face of the president of the United States.

He’ll be handing over information that is in the public’s domain – data that freely goes to political parties and candidates in Idaho. But he draws the line on coughing up personal information that is not part of the public record.

“That would be like me telling someone, ‘here’s my credit card, go ahead and use it,’” he said.

Denney is supplying more information than leading Idaho Democrats would like to see. “I don’t like to see Idaho assisting such an effort in any way, or form,” says Rep. llana Rubel of Boise, the House assistant Democratic floor leader. “And, especially if it jeopardizes our citizens’ privacy rights.”

Democratic legislative leaders, in a letter to Denney, called the commission’s efforts a “blatant attack on the sovereign rights of the State of Idaho to protect its own elections and the privacy of the citizens.”

Moreover, the letter says, the commission “does not explain how this information will be used, what it will be used for, how it will be protected (if at all), or how long the federal government will maintain control over the personal information of hundreds of thousands of Idahoans.”

Denney plans to meet with Democratic leaders to discuss this matter further. One area of agreement is that voter fraud is practically non-existent in Idaho.

“If there’s voter fraud nationally, I hope they (the commissioners) can find it,” Denney says. “But I don’t think asking for this information is going to be productive in finding voter fraud. I’ve talked with other secretaries, and they don’t see evidence of widespread voter fraud. If it were widespread, we’d know about it.”

During the last election, Denney says, 14 instances of fraud were investigated in Idaho and almost all involved elderly people who voted absentee, then showed up to the polls on Election Day. Those were innocent mistakes.

“Being one of those age-challenged people myself, I can understand how that can happen,” he said.

Denney says the commission’s efforts could be worthwhile if it bolsters confidence in elections. But it appears that President Trump is one of the few people who does not have any degree of confidence in American elections. And now, he’s spending a lot of time, and wasting money, on this tail-chasing expedition.

So, you thought the era of “big government” was over …

Chuck Malloy, a long-time Idaho journalist, is a columnist with Idaho Politics Weekly. He may be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.