Justice

The White House's Voter Fraud Commission Is Facing Heavy Backlash

July 14th 2017

By:
Katelyn Harrop

The White House’s newly created voter fraud commission is already raising doubts about its ability to protect citizens' private information.

 

 

The Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity wasted no time in releasing 112 pages of citizen emails, including personal information, written in response to the commission and its recent request for voter information.

The feedback comes as the commission has raised controversy for requesting voter data from U.S. secretaries of state to use in its investigation of unfounded voter fraud claims.

Almost every single state has refused to comply, and feedback provided by citizens about the commission was overwhelmingly negative.

The commission's written request asked for information including voters' first and last name, party affiliation, addresses, and the last four digits of social security numbers. The commission twice specified their request for “public information,” but information including social security numbers is considered private.

"I pay the government a boat load of taxes, so you work for me. I think you are doing a terrible job. Explain yourself."

“This commission is a sham and [Vice Chair Kris Kobach] has been put on it expressly to disenfranchise minority voters,” wrote one commenter. “I am ashamed that my taxpayer dollars are being used for such purposes.”

The ACLU has called for Kobach's removal from the commission, citing restrictive voting registration policies he enacted as Kansas' secretary of state, which they claim led to the disenfranchisement of 18,000 voters.

“I am insulted by the administration’s attempt to invalidate votes by wasting the valuable time of of various state employees,” wrote another commenter. “This seems to be an attempt to divert resources away from the investigation into the current U.S. president’s democratic legitimacy, and all of you were involved should be ashamed of yourselves.”

whitehouse.gov

Given that many of the concerns about the commission were rooted in its potential violation of voter privacy, the release of the public commenters' personal information comes as an ironic twist.

Many of the released comments include the first and last name of the sender as well as email addresses, employers, and home addresses in some cases. While It’s not uncommon for the White House to release public comments, it’s customary to provide notice that information in the comment may be made public.

For example, Regulations.gov, the federal center for public comment, provides a “Privacy and Security Notice” detailing limitations on commenting privacy. “The material you submit to a federal department or agency through Regulations.gov may be seen by various people,” reads the notice. “Any personally identifiable information (e.g., name, address, phone number) included in the comment form or in an attachment will be provided to the department or agency to which your comment is directed and may be publicly disclosed in a docket or on the Internet.”

whitehouse.gov

The White House did provide notice that the commission, “may post such written comments publicly on our website, including names and contact information that are submitted,” however, the notice was released in a blog post published on July 13, while the released emails are dated as being sent between June 29 and July 11.

One commenter, in direct language, expressed that concern about the commission's ability to protect people's personal information.

“DO NOT RELEASE ANY OF MY VOTER DATA, PERIOD,” wrote one commenter.

President Trump created the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity through an executive order in May, after sending out a series of tweets crediting his loss of the popular vote in the 2016 presidential race due to widespread voter fraud. These claims have not been backed up.