Did Trump Voter Commission Break the Law?

By on July 7, 2017

Word may come down as soon as Friday as to whether or not a federal judge will put the smack down on Donald Trump’s sham voter commission and its draconian crusade to get states to hand over private voter data.

The case is before U.S. District Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly and is the result of a lawsuit filed by the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. They are seeking a temporary restraining order to keep the so-called Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity, co-chaired by Vice President Mike Pence and Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, from pursuing any further efforts to extract sensitive voting data from state election officers.

As many as 44 states have already gone on the record saying they will refuse to comply with the commission’s request. As far as EPIC goes, they aren’t necessarily challenging the order as a targeted voter suppression attack, but rather its dangerous implications on federal privacy laws.

“It’s not that they shouldn’t [request the data], it’s that they can’t,” said EPIC president Marc Rotenberg, who is also acting as counsel for the organization in the lawsuit. “The aim is to block the ability of the commission to seek the sensitive voter data. It’s an extraordinary and unprecedented request and we believe it raises profound privacy concerns,” Rotenberg said.

The commission’s request may run afoul of other laws besides those pertaining to privacy. They commission failed to run its request through proper channels, namely the Office of Management and Budget’s Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA), which is a violation of the Paperwork Reduction Act that was implemented way back in the 1980s.

“If the commission gets heavy-handed with them, it seems to me that the states are within their right to say, ‘No, we don’t have to respond because you didn’t go through [OIRA],’” said Susan Dudley, a former OIRA administrator who is now director of the GW Regulatory Studies Center at George Washington University.

Either way, it looks like the commission is treading on some shaky legal ground by trying to get states to hand over private voter information.