What could possibly go wrong with this? According to the Washington Post, on 7 July the Trump administration told a federal judge that it plans to keep voter roll data it has requested from all 50 states and the District on White House computers under the direction of a member of Vice President Pence’s staff.
The disclosure of the White House role came in a government filing required in a lawsuit by the Electronic Privacy Information Center, a watchdog organization that has asked a federal judge in Washington to block the requests for voter data until the impact on Americans’ privacy can be fully assessed.
A decision on the request for a temporary restraining order by U.S. District Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly is expected as early as Friday afternoon.
Spencer Hsu reports that the May executive order creating the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity stated that the panel would be funded and staffed through the General Services Administration — a federal agency subject to privacy requirements. That arrangement has shifted: “At this time, there are no plans for the General Services Administration to collect or store any voter registration or other elections-related data for the Commission,” Kobach said in response to questions from the court.
“Commission staff will download the files … onto White House computers,” he wrote, adding that an employee of the vice president’s office will be responsible with White House information technology staff for collecting and storing any data.
ProPublica reports that Vice President Mike Pence’s office has confirmed the White House commission intends to run the state voter rolls it has requested against federal databases to check for potential fraudulent registration. Marc Lotter, spokesman for Pence, told ProPublica the state voter information will be run “through a number of different databases, looking for the possibility for areas where voter rolls could be strengthened.”
While Lotter would not say specifically which databases the rolls would be run against, ProPublica notes that the Washington Times reported last week the commission may seek to check the names against the federal government’s database of non-citizens. A 2012 attempt by Florida to do that resulted in many legitimate voters being falsely flagged because they had the same names as people in the federal database. Gov. Rick Scott scrapped the effort and eventually apologized.
Lotter, Pence’s spokesman, told ProPublica that even if false matches were made they’d do no harm since the commission can’t remove names from states’ voter rolls. He said the commission is simply going to provide recommendations and highlight any common problems that might come up in the matching process. “What we are trying to do is create the first national look at voter registration and the potential for fraudulent registration that could lead to fraudulent voting. At the end of the day you have to ask yourself who is not for making sure we have one person one vote?”
John Merrill, the Republican secretary of state for Alabama, said any false positive raises the likelihood a voter might be incorrectly purged.
And then there are the risks of hacking and leaks — and an undisciplined President on a vendetta…