July 10, 2017
Public Citizen Sues Trump Administration to Prevent Government’s Collection of Voter Information
President’s Commission on Election Integrity Plan Violates the Privacy Act
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Public Citizen sued the U.S. Department of the Army today to block the collection and dissemination of information about voters’ political parties and voting histories. The President’s Commission on Election Integrity requested that states submit such information to an Army website by July 14.
President Donald Trump established the commission by executive order on May 11. On June 28, Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, who is the vice chair of the commission, sent a letter to all 50 states and the District of Columbia asking them to submit data from their voter rolls, including voters’ political party affiliations and voting histories from 2006 onwards, as well as voters’ names, addresses and dates of birth.
The commission is asking that states upload the information to the Department of the Army’s Safe Access File Exchange (SAFE) website.
In its suit, filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, Public Citizen alleges that the Army’s collection and dissemination of the information violates the Privacy Act, which prohibits the collection, use, maintenance or distribution of any “record describing how any individual exercises rights guaranteed by the First Amendment.”
“The federal government should not be compiling information about citizens’ political affiliations and their exercise of the right to vote,” said Public Citizen President Robert Weissman. “Americans are right to be worried about who will gain access to the data and how it will be used. There is little doubt that the overriding purpose of the data collection effort, and of the deceptively named Commission on Election Integrity itself, is to intimidate voters, particularly people of color, and to suppress voting on a massive scale.”
“The Army’s collection of this information will violates the Privacy Act,” said Sean Sherman, the lead attorney on the case. “Immediate action is needed by the court to ensure voters’ information is protected.”
Because of the upcoming deadline and the irreparable harm that would befall Public Citizen’s members if their information was collected and disseminated, Public Citizen is requesting that the court issue a temporary restraining order. Although many states have said that they will not comply with the commission’s request, at least one state, Arkansas, has already submitted information.