Trump Admin Defends ‘Voter Fraud’ Probe In Court Against Privacy Lawsuit

Carolyn Kaster/AP
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A federal court heard arguments Friday in a lawsuit challenging the Trump administration’s demand from all 50 states for sensitive voter information, including addresses, Social Security numbers and party affiliation data.

Over the July 4 holiday weekend, the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) sued the leaders of the dubious “election integrity” commission—Vice President Mike Pence and Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach—saying they had committed “egregious security blunders” that “would enable identity theft and financial fraud.” They’re demanding that the commission’s data collection efforts be immediately halted.

Already, the vast majority of states have resisted the commission’s inquiry, with at least 44 states refusing to hand over some of the information requested. In court on Friday, an attorney for the Justice Department admitted that only one state, Arkansas, has sent its voter information to the federal government thus far.

EPIC’s attorneys argued, for their part, that the commission is violating the E-Government Act of 2002, which government agencies to conduct a privacy impact assessment before collecting personal information using information technology. No assessment was conducted before requesting voter data, the suit alleges. The DOJ lawyer responded that because the “election integrity” commission is not an official government agency, it does not have to abide by these rules.

EPIC also raised concerns that the site the commission has set up to receive sensitive voter information is hosted by the Pentagon, with a .mil web address.

After hearing both sides make their case on Friday afternoon,US District Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly said she would issue a written opinion in the coming days.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Alice Ollstein is a reporter at Talking Points Memo, covering national politics. She graduated from Oberlin College in 2010 and has been reporting in DC ever since, covering the Supreme Court, Congress and national elections for TV, radio, print, and online outlets. Her work has aired on Free Speech Radio News, All Things Considered, Channel News Asia, and Telesur, and her writing has been published by The Atlantic, La Opinión, and The Hill Rag. She was elected in 2016 as an at-large board member of the DC Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists. Alice grew up in Santa Monica, California and began working for local newspapers in her early teens.
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