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Privacy Government The Courts Politics

Privacy Watchdog Sues Trump's Election Committee Over Voter Data (engadget.com) 343

From a report: When the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity sent a letter to all 50 states seeking personal, identifying information on all voters in the US, at least 44 states refused in some part. Trump signed an executive order last May to create this commission while claiming that millions of people had voted illegally. The Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) has taken issue with this request, as well, and has filed a lawsuit accusing the Commission of violating the privacy of American voters. EPIC also asserts that the original request asks states to send the data to a non-secure website, making the data vulnerable to identity theft and financial fraud. Not to mention political agendas. EPIC is also seeking information about "the failure to conduct a Privacy Impact Assessment," and has filed for a temporary restraining order "to block the Commission's efforts."
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Privacy Watchdog Sues Trump's Election Committee Over Voter Data

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  • by supernova87a ( 532540 ) <kepler1.hotmail@com> on Thursday July 06, 2017 @11:34AM (#54756813)
    I'm not as concerned about voter privacy (which I happen to think that voter records are something that a federal government could legitimately have reasons to demand accurate and unified data on) as the likelihood that whoever in this administration tasked to do it is some part time Republican committee-connected programmer bro (maybe not even that lowly skilled) who hacks together some shitty piece of analysis code that comes to wrong conclusions, is misused for political purposes, and is vulnerable to hacking.

    This is the flavor of the week for the administration. It's one thing they are putting out there to see if it flies, and that's about how long their interest and dedication to doing the job right will last. There are people (secretaries of state, registrars, data scientists) whose entire lives are dedicated to maintaining and verifying and analyzig voter rolls. Who do you trust to handle and come to conclusions about this kind of data conscientiously?

    As the Republicans say, when the Federal Government comes knocking with the line "I'm here to help" you should be scared. They're right in this case.
    • by number6x ( 626555 ) on Thursday July 06, 2017 @12:36PM (#54757409)

      ...which I happen to think that voter records are something that a federal government could legitimately have reasons to demand accurate and unified data on...

      I'm not disagreeing with your overall comment, but some federal governments may legitimately ask for this, but the executive office of the United States of America cannot. The executive branch has no role whatsoever in elections.

      Article I, Section 4 of the constitution states:

      Section. 4.

      Clause 1: The Times, Places and Manner of holding Elections for Senators and Representatives, shall be prescribed in each State by the Legislature thereof; but the Congress may at any time by Law make or alter such Regulations, except as to the Places of chusing Senators.

      It is up to the states to control elections, Congress can pass laws that can make and alter elections nation wide. The Executive office plays no role. Article 2:

      Section. 1. ... Clause 2: Each State shall appoint, in such Manner as the Legislature thereof may direct, a Number of Electors, equal to the whole Number of Senators and Representatives to which the State may be entitled in the Congress: but no Senator or Representative, or Person holding an Office of Trust or Profit under the United States, shall be appointed an Elector.

      The states are also in charge of their electors in the electoral college for the President of the United States. The President is not involved. The President should not get involved in the sausage making of the office of the President, as it would be a conflict of interest and cross the boundaries of the balance of power.

      The twelfth amendment [constitutioncenter.org] altered the way the electoral college worked, but it left un-changed the fact that the States, and not the federal government, is in charge of elections.

      So it is true that some federal governments may have an interest in this, the federal government of the United States has an extremely limited role. The executive branch has no role in this whatsoever.

      • I wish I had mod points to mod you up. I also wish that dumb-ass and chief would get to work. Is executive pay and benefits eligible to be considered and "Entitlement" when applied to billionaires?
  • by SuperKendall ( 25149 ) on Thursday July 06, 2017 @11:37AM (#54756859)

    The Democrats raised the loudest stick about elections being hacked. The Green party even raised millions to go over votes to check for validity across a few states...

    Well then lets check, lets check everywhere the full extent of votes really being hacked, of votes really being cast illegally. What is the issue with not checking this? They claim voter privacy but there is no such concern in regards to the federal government which owns all of the results of a national election anyway and is legally free and clear to demand any information it likes.

    Pretty obviously there is a lot more voter fraud going on than many would care to admit, and they do not want it uncovered - and here I'm speaking for both parties. This is yet another glimpse of the Deep State disliking being exposed to sunlight.

    • by bugs2squash ( 1132591 ) on Thursday July 06, 2017 @11:48AM (#54756967)

      I thought the states ran their own elections to choose electoral college members and the EC members voted at the national level for president. It's the presidential election that has triggered the most concern, but I'm sure there is concern about house and senate, perhaps even state level seats too, but these are all issues that affect how each state is represented and are proper matters for a state to research (perhaps with support from the federal gov).

      This attempt by the administration to fish for anything they might use to bolster their fantasy that Trump won the popular vote has nothing to do with a search for the truth.

      • these are all issues that affect how each state is represented and are proper matters for a state to research (perhaps with support from the federal gov).

        Why yes they are matters for the states to research.

        However almost no states are doing so.

        So the federal government has decided to do an audit. You know, like any non-crooked organization might have to do from time to time just to ensure things were on the level...

        Why are people so resistant to a simple audit I wonder?

        • by smooth wombat ( 796938 ) on Thursday July 06, 2017 @12:42PM (#54757469) Journal
          Why are people so resistant to a simple audit I wonder?

          Don't know. Why don't you ask the con artist who fought tooth and nail to stop vote recounts in three states [nytimes.com] by claiming, wait for it, there was no evidence of vote fraud [thehill.com]. The exact words used:

          "There is no evidence - or even an allegation - that any tampering with Pennsylvania's voting systems actually occurred."

          In Wisconsin, the recount and simultaneous audit went forward despite the lawsuits [tmj4.com]. That would have seemed a perfect time to see about illegal votes but instead, the con artist and his supporters filed suit to stop the process.

          As Jill Stein stated in Michigan [thehill.com]:

          "In an election already tainted by suspicion, previously expressed by Donald Trump himself, verifying the vote is a common-sense procedure that would address concerns around voter disenfranchisement,"

          And yet, the con artist didn't want vote recounts, or any checking of the votes. Now he does. Why the change? As stated above, it's simply to soothe his ego that he lost the popular vote to Hillary Clinton. That is it. Nothing more, nothing less. He can't stand it that he received fewer votes than a woman, and it is made worse that it was Hillary.
      • by l0n3s0m3phr34k ( 2613107 ) on Thursday July 06, 2017 @12:29PM (#54757361)
        Especially with what they are requesting...military status, felony status, per-election voting results. I can see this being used as propaganda: each state has their own rules for felony voting. Some never let a felon vote again, some do after 2x time sentenced, etc. However, it's highly likely that this commission will "freak out" on Fox and Friends screaming about all the "felons voting!", and how that is "illegal", etc. They won't go into how it's illegal only in specific states, or that the states where felons are voting it isn't illegal...nuance like that is not usually fitting for Breibart, Fox, etc. All we will hear is is about "rapist, murderers, and pedophiles voting!" or such. They will probably just match up the last four SSN, take a list of dead people's last 4, and claim that ALL these people are "illegally voting dead people". Then, lawsuits from groups like "Voters Outreach of America" will start rolling in on those states, costing taxpayers millions and exposing even more voter information.

        We all know that all this info will be rolled up into a highly insecure database and just behind-the-scenes handed over to companies like Cambridge Analytica. Or there will be some "cyber intrusion" and the data will be leaked...AND this cyber-incident will be used by "lawmakers" to clamp down even more on our distinguishing online freedoms.
      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by Rockoon ( 1252108 )
        So what your saying is that now that Republicans are in full control of the Federal branches, that Democrats suddenly rediscovered States rights?
        • This isn't about changing position on anything, it's about pulling together data to cherry pick over to support a predetermined outcome.
    • Re: (Score:2, Flamebait)

      The Democrats didn't raise any sticks about the election itself being hacked, you just made that up. The Russia issue relates to things they did to influence the election, such as releasing Clinton's emails without releasing Trump's, and some peripheral issues relating to the possibility they might have been planning to disrupt the election itself by manipulating voting lists, not actually changing the results.

      But yeah, let's check them. Let's get an independent commission to investigate, made up on non-

      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by Rockoon ( 1252108 )

        The Democrats didn't raise any sticks about the election itself being hacked, you just made that up.

        Please... they screamed it very loudly. They are still screaming it.

        In fact, the Democrats were calling the Republicans "unpatriotic" for not blindly believing it.

    • by Dog-Cow ( 21281 )

      There's no such thing as a national election in the US. One votes for ones state's electors.

    • by skids ( 119237 )

      The Green party even raised millions to go over votes to check for validity across a few states...

      No, the Green party raised millions to have actual elections officials double-check the ballots. That's a world apart from having a bunch of D.C. hacks run amateur database searches until they get something that they think looks fishy, but isn't, and then go tweeting around that the system is rigged despite not actually having any evidence for it... and, in the meantime, getting themselves hacked by every identity thief in the world because it is plain they do not know the fuck of what they do with compute

    • There are bigger problems than voter fraud in the US. Mainly the gerrymandering of ridings (districts) and creation of laws to disenfranchise certain groups from voting. The fact that politicians are allowed to set their own districts is so baffling to me. In Canada ridings are determined by an independent body. They have to follow a set of rules such as trying to create the simplest shape (or at least it can't go and try to pick out separate blocks or houses) and should try to use boundary lines such as r

  • McCarthy (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Rick Schumann ( 4662797 ) on Thursday July 06, 2017 @12:08PM (#54757139) Journal
    What the hell does Trump think he's doing? Identifying all his 'enemies' within the 300,000,000 people in this country? What's next, Trump? Bringing back the McCarthy Committee? Loyalty tests? What a bunch of bullshit.
  • by DeplorableCodeMonkey ( 4828467 ) on Thursday July 06, 2017 @12:10PM (#54757151)

    1. Put all of the data in a big Hadoop cluster.
    2. Throw in social security records.
    3. MapReduce/Spark
    4. Nice big graphical charts that lay bare how absolutely cluster fucked our election system actually is in terms that even someone with an 80 IQ can understand.

    My bet:
    1. You'll find a lot of UMC voters double voting in different states where they have legal residences.
    2. You'll find a lot of dead voters still voting.
    3. You'll find a lot of immigrants.

    If anything, I expect to find that felons are the least problematic group as most of them won't give two shits about voting if it steers them anywhere near a repeat offense that sends them back to prison.

    • by R3d M3rcury ( 871886 ) on Thursday July 06, 2017 @12:17PM (#54757249) Journal

      2. You'll find a lot of dead voters still voting.

      Actually, some states have done audits. And they actually found a case of a dead guy voting. Turned out he mailed in his ballot but died before the election, when the votes are counted.

      But other than that mildly amusing story, it all pretty much turned into a big nothingburger.

    • No. what I'm afraid of is that if they are trying to find large-scale voter fraud they are asking for the wrong data. The data they are asking for looks (to me) like the kind of data you'd want for a voter-targeting database.

      All you need to find voter fraud is first name, last name, zip code, and which of the last dozen or so elections they voted in.

      If you want to look for undocumented immigrants voting illegally, look in zip codes that (according to the US Census) have a high proportion of undocumented immigrants. Look for changes in voter turnout in those zip codes. If voter turnout in those zip codes is persistently and significantly increasing, you need to collect more data and look more closely, because you might have found evidence that undocumented immigrants are voting.

      For multi-voters and dead voters, use the Social Security data. If Social Security only knows about 15 living Gertude Higglesteins but 21 Gertude Higglesteins voted, you have a problem.

      Note that a better statistician who had more time could come up with better tests. The point is at this point we need to place upper and lower limits on the prevalence of fraudulent voting. I'm all for an independent look into that. And we can easily do it without creating a big fat juicy database that someone could steal and use for nefarious purposes.

  • Sending sensitive, private financial information to CFPB? EPIC is A-OK with that!

    Sending sensitive, private medical information to the Federal Data Services Hub under ACA? EPIC is A-OK with that too!

    Collecting minimal voter information that's already mostly public to see whether there might be a problem with illegal voting? EPIC can't allow that!

    It seems to me like EPIC is more driven by political partisanship than by a consistent concern for protecting the privacy of Americans from federal overreach.

    • Collecting minimal voter information that's already mostly [emph mine] public to see whether there might be a problem with illegal voting? EPIC can't allow that!

      Yeah...it's that mostly part.

      Start with an obvious one--why do they need the last four digits of my SSN?

      • Start with an obvious one--why do they need the last four digits of my SSN?

        They already have your entire SSN; they don't need to get that from the state.

        What they want to check is whether the state's records are accurate, i.e., whether someone just made up a SSN. To do that, they compare the SSN they already have for you against the data provided by the states.

        • Except that some states cannot legally provide even that. Kansas (where Kobach is the Secretary of State) can't.

          • And that has to do with EPIC's lawsuit or the hypocrisy of their position on privacy... exactly nothing.

  • by argStyopa ( 232550 ) on Thursday July 06, 2017 @12:17PM (#54757243) Journal

    http://www.npr.org/sections/th... [npr.org]

    "The letter, sent Wednesday to all 50 states, requests that all publicly available voter roll data be sent to the White House..."

    They're asking for otherwise-PUBLICLY AVAILABLE information. They're not asking for secret stuff (why would the states have that anyway?).

    Isn't it getting a little tiresome to misinterpret everything Trump does as malignantly as possible?

    • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 ) <mojo@ w o r l d 3 . net> on Thursday July 06, 2017 @02:14PM (#54758369) Homepage Journal

      From TFA:

      "Partial, publicly-accessible voter data is already available, though the specifics vary by state. Many lawmakers who have received the Commission's request have responded in the negative. "The President's Commission has quickly politicized its work by asking states for an incredible amount of voter data that I have, time and time again, refused to release," said Louisiana Secretary of State Tom Schedler in a statement that was reported by Ars Technica. "My response to the Commission is, you're not going to play politics with Louisiana's voter data, and if you are, then you can purchase the limited public information available by law to any candidate running for office. That's it."

    • Isn't it getting a little tiresome to misinterpret everything Trump does as malignantly as possible?

      Maybe it would start to be if Trump ever did a single thing that wasn't malignant in nature.

  • Look, the problem is that we know at least 39 states were hacked, and voting machines in specific counties and precincts were disabled, and attempts were made to disenroll American voters, by Russia.

    But the commission is correct that the Russian White House is trying to make it worse.

    Expect new actions after Putin's lapdog gets his new marching orders from his master at the G-20.

  • It sounds like the organization is basing its complaint on headlines, instead of what was actually requested. The committee did not ask for private information, or for information that it would be illegal to provide. Rather, the committee asked for information that was available to the public. Essentially, it seems to me, the committee was looking to save a few bucks by getting the data gift-wrapped, instead of going out and getting the data itself.

    • *smacks forehead* Asking the Secretary of State of that state for election information, IS going out and getting the data. Who did you think maintains that information?
  • Block all blue states from participating in federal elections until they can prove, either by providing data to the federal government or through an internal audit run by an independent entity, that they don't have dead people, illegal aliens or other fraud on their voter rolls. http://www.npr.org/2012/02/14/... [npr.org]

    Also, we need a federal voter ID law for all federal elections. The ID can be free, but you have to spend the time up front to get it at least 2 weeks before the election. If you can't be bothered

    • by J053 ( 673094 )

      There are no federal elections in the United States.
      US Constitution, Art. 1, Sec. 4:

      1: The Times, Places and Manner of holding Elections for Senators and Representatives, shall be prescribed in each State by the Legislature thereof; but the Congress may at any time by Law make or alter such Regulations, except as to the Places of chusing Senators.

      So, unless Congress so authorizes (and even then it's questionable), the Executive Branch of the Federal Government has no damned business at all in getting involved with elections.

      • Federal elections are the vernacular term for elections choosing the President, senators or congressmen, as opposed to state elections which involve electing state officials, or local elections which involve city/county officials. This is the vernacular and common usage of these terms, though they do not appear explicitly in the constitution. As you clearly cite, congress CAN pass laws regarding federal elections that supersede state laws as stated in Article 1, Section 4...

        Here is another free civics les

  • I know lots of people say Trump is doing this because he's so egotistical that he can't believe he actually lost the popular vote. I actually think that's unlikely and 2 other reasons are a lot more likely.

    1) It's simply red meat for his supporters and nothing more. If you have friends on Facebook who are pro-Trump and pro-Republican, you have probably been appalled at some of the crazy things they think are true. I'd love to see someone take a poll to verify this, but I suspect that Trump's support
    • Keep in mind that some of the wing nuts on the left have already played into Trump's hand by publicly asserting that zero fraudulent voters occurred in the 2016 elections. All Trump has to do is find one anywhere and they're proven wrong.

      He also called their bluff. The left keep trying to pin a Russian/Trump collusion on their candidate's loss of the election. But when they are asked to open the books, they refuse to.

      When Wisconsin opened the books after the election so Jill Stein could get a recount,

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