Washington Group Presses to Halt Trump Panel Voter Data Round UpBy
EPIC lawsuit says collection requires privacy assessment
Administration’s effort seeks signs of fraud in 2016 election
A Washington-based group maintains President Donald Trump’s election integrity commission must conduct a privacy impact assessment before it can collect U.S. voter data including names, addresses, birth dates and the last four digits of social security numbers.
The Electronic Privacy Information Center is seeking a federal court order blocking the panel’s collection of the information until it complies. EPIC pressed its argument in papers filed Thursday, responding to the administration’s claim that the request doesn’t harm privacy because it seeks only publicly available data. The group’s lawsuit was filed on July 3.
"The commission has asked state election officials to transfer massive amounts of sensitive personal data, protected by state privacy law, to an insecure website without authentication," attorneys for the Washington-based organization said. "It is difficult to construct an example of ‘irreparable harm’ that is more self-evident."
Trump created the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity by executive order on May 11, following through on his assertion that voter fraud skewed the popular vote in last year’s presidential election, enabling Democratic rival Hillary Clinton to accrue almost 3 million more votes, even as he prevailed in the electoral college.
While the panel chairman is Vice President Mike Pence, its public face has been Vice Chairman Kris Kobach, who is also Kansas Secretary of State. Earlier Thursday, Kobach listed the names of other commission members in a court filing requested by U.S. District Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly.
In a letter last week, Kobach asked public officials in 50 states and the District of Columbia to produce the information where permissible and offer input on making election technology more secure while simultaneously avoiding disenfranchisement. He also asked for post-2000 election-related crime data.
His request encountered immediate resistance as several states categorically refused to comply while others said they’d only respond in part, prompting an angry retort from the president.
“Numerous states are refusing to give information to the very distinguished VOTER FRAUD PANEL,” Trump responded in a July 1 tweet. “What are they trying to hide?”
In papers filed Wednesday, administration attorneys argued the data they sought was already public and that EPIC has no legal right to maintain the lawsuit, not even on behalf of its own members.
"The public interest weighs against emergency injunctive relief," the Justice Department said.
The case is Electronic Privacy Information Center v. Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity, 17-cv-1320, U.S. District Court, District of Columbia (Washington).