Common Cause Sues to Stop Pence-Kobach Panel's Data Collection

Request for Voter Info Violates Privacy Act, Suit Charges

Posted by Dale Eisman on July 14, 2017

Common Cause sued President Trump’s Advisory Commission on Election Integrity this afternoon, asking a federal court to shut down commission efforts to obtain personal information about millions of voters and order the panel to return the data it has already collected to state officials.

Filed under the federal Privacy Act, the case is the latest in a group of challenges to the commission chaired by Vice President Mike Pence. It is the only suit in the series that could permanently stop the commission’s data collection and block its apparent plan to create a national voter database that could be used to attack the voting rights of tens of thousands of voters.

In addition to the commission, the suit names the Department of Homeland Security and the Social Security Administration as defendants. It was filed in U.S. District Court in Washington.

“Every eligible American has a right to an equal voice and vote in the future of their family, community, and country,” said Common Cause President Karen Hobert Flynn. “The Privacy Act was passed in the wake of Watergate, when the Nixon White House compiled information on individuals with opposing political views. It was wrong then and it is wrong now.”  

Election officials in at least 45 states and the District of Columbia have refused to provide at least some of the data requested by the commission, in many cases because the information is protected by state laws. The resisting officials include Republicans as well as Democrats; one of the former, Mississippi Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann, turned the commission down by suggesting it jump in the Gulf of Mexico.

Trump created the commission to investigate his claim, unsupported by evidence, that up to 5 million people voted illegally last year. The president argues that those votes denied him a popular vote majority even as he carried states with a majority of electoral votes and won the presidency.

While Pence has been installed as chairman, the commission appears to be under the direction of Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, who has spearheaded strict voter identification laws and other legal steps designed to limit voting. Other members include Hans Von Spakovsky, a Heritage Foundation analyst who has led conservative challenges to efforts to expand voting rights.

A series of studies conducted over years by bipartisan commissions and independent scholars has failed to find a significant problem with voter fraud in U.S. elections. Officials acknowledge that thousands of people are on the voter rolls in more than one city, county, or state but say there’s no evidence that more than a tiny fraction of those have tried to cast multiple votes or that their names have been used by people impersonating them in order to vote.


Office: Common Cause National

Issues: Voting and Elections

Tags: Registration and Voting Systems, Voting Rights

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