President Trump’s controversial voter integrity commission may go ahead with plans to gather voter data from 50 states and D.C., despite assertions by a watchdog group of potential privacy violations, a federal judge ruled Monday.
The ruling is a win for the president who created the commission to investigate his widely denounced claim that widespread vote fraud cost him the popular vote in November.
U.S. District Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly of D.C., ruled that the only damage is that already publicly available voter roll information will be gathered in one spot and thus more easily accessible, and that is not enough to block the request.
She also said the denial was based on current information. She allowed that the opponents could come back to court if the factual circumstances change. For example, if the powers of the commission expand beyond a purely advisory body, she said.
The commission, led by Vice President Mike Pence and Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, requested voter profile details on 150 million registered voters, including name, address, date of birth, party registration, voting, felony, and military records as well as the final four social security numbers of each voter.
The commission was created May 11 by executive order, to study the registration and voting processes used in federal elections. It’s role is solely advisory and shall be disbanded 30 days after submitted its report to the president.
“The mere increased risk of disclosure stemming from the collection and eventual, anonymized disclosure of already publicly available voter roll information is insufficient” to block the request, the judge wrote.
Kollar-Kotelly rejected the request for a restraining order by the Electronic Privacy Information center (EPIC), a watchdog group that pressed to block the commission’s access to the records.
The judge held that the presidential advisory panel was not a federal agency and thus not subject to privacy law.
Trump, who lost the popular vote by three million votes, has repeatedly blamed widespread voter fraud cost him the election. His critics, including EPIC, have called the assertion unsubstantiated by any prior election fraud studies. The panel has been called a pretext for efforts to suppress voter participation, particularly of racial minorities.
Case: EPIC v. Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity, No. 17-1320 DC Dist. Court