The Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity made headlines on June 28 when it requested that states hand over registered voters’ full names, political affiliations, addresses, dates of birth, criminal records, the last four digits of their Social Security numbers, and other personal identifying information. The government wants to make all of the data public. Many of the states deem varying parts of the data private—meaning state law forbids them from divulging it.
So far, Arkansas is the only state that has complied with the commission’s demands. But the commission, put together by President Donald Trump amid allegations of voter fraud on a massive scale during the 2016 election, said it has erased Arkansas’ data. And now the commission, which (among other topics) wants to investigate whether dead people voted in elections the past decade, is telling the rest of the states they don’t need to comply—at least for now.
The commission told a federal judge Monday that the states can hold off on supplying the requested data until the District of Columbia federal court decides whether the commission may require the states to hand over the data. The Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) is asking a judge for a temporary restraining order (TRO) to block the request until the privacy issue can be litigated in court.
Most of the states have already balked at complying, citing voter privacy. The commission’s request also demands data showing the history of whether voters participated in elections (but not actual votes cast).
“Today, July 10, 2017, the Commission also sent the states a follow-up communication requesting the states not submit any data until this Court rules on plaintiff’s TRO motion,” the government wrote (PDF) the court. The commission e-mailed state election officials early Monday that, “Until the judge rules on the TRO, we request that you hold on submitting any data.”
EPIC is suing the commission on accusations that the requested information violates the privacy of American voters. EPIC also says the commission is asking the states to forward the data to an unsecure website, the Department of Defense Safe File Exchange site. The commission said that, if it prevails, it will “use an alternative means for transmitting the requested data.”
Trump signed an executive order creating the election commission in May. He has claimed there was voter fraud on a massive scale during the 2016 election. Trump alleged that millions of people voted illegally.
A court ruling on the issue is expected soon.