Ever since Trump lost the popular vote to Hillary Clinton, he’s been trying to lie his way out of the embarrassment. Shortly after the election, he tweeted that “In addition to winning the Electoral College in a landslide, I won the popular vote if you deduct the millions of people who voted illegally.” Of course, there’s no evidence that there were any substantial number of illegal votes. So, he created a special commission to try to manufacture evidence.
That group, with the Orwellian name of “the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity,” started by requesting that states deliver a tremendous amount of personal information including names, addresses, birth dates, party affiliation, elections in which voters participated, and partial Social Security numbers. Almost every state has refused to comply in full, often pointing out that state law protects the privacy of this data. Ironically, Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach was one of those unable to fully comply, despite being the head of the commission and the one asking states for the data.
Now the commission faces another hurdle, as four different civil rights organizations have filed lawsuits against it. All of the allegations are compelling, and suggest that the commission is operating with absolutely no understanding of federal law.
The Electronic Privacy Information Center says that the request for voter information violates the 2002 E-Government Act. That law requires the government to “conduct a privacy impact assessment” before collecting personal information, and then make that assessment public. Given that the commission absurdly suggested that states could submit their data via unencrypted email, we can be pretty confident that the members haven’t even considered basic security, let alone privacy rules.
Two different groups, the American Civil Liberties Union and the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, filed separate lawsuits citing the Federal Advisory Committee Act. That law, which in a bit of irony was signed by President Nixon, imposes transparency rules on any commissions created by the president. Meetings have to be open, there has to be space for the public to attend, working papers have to be available for public inspection, and other pesky details like that. The commission has already violated these rules, because they are highly inconvenient for a group trying to reach conclusions that aren’t supported by facts.
These come on the heels of a lawsuit filed by Public Citizen last week arguing that the commission’s efforts violate the federal Privacy Act. The commission plans to use an Army website to collect and disseminate the voter information. Among other protections, the Privacy Act prohibits the collection or distribution of any “record describing how any individual exercises rights guaranteed by the First Amendment.”
All four suits seek restraining orders against the commission to stop its illegal behavior. If judges agree, it’s not at all clear that the commission can meet the legal requirements and still fulfill its purpose of fabricating “proof” of voter fraud.