Trump Voter Commission Passes First Court Test

The commission's initial request was met with lawsuits and bipartisan backlash by some states.

by Hunter Woodall, The Kansas City Star (Kansas City, Mo.) / July 25, 2017
President Donald Trump, left, and Kris Kobach, the Kansas secretary of state, on Nov. 20, 2016, at the clubhouse of Trump International Golf Club, in Bedminster Township, N.J. Sipa USA/TNS

(TNS) -- A federal judge ruled Monday against a privacy organization's effort to halt the nationwide request for voter information made by Kris Kobach.

In the ruling, U.S. District Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly rejected the call from the Electronic Privacy Information Center for a temporary restraining order involving Kobach's request to all 50 states and the District of Columbia for large amounts of voter data.

"The mere increased risk of disclosure stemming from the collection and eventual, anonymized disclosure of already publicly available voter roll information is insufficient to confer standing," Judge Kollar-Kotelly wrote in the ruling.

Kobach, a Republican who serves as Kansas secretary of state, gained national attention in recent weeks for his role as vice chairman of President Donald Trump's Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity.

On behalf of the commission, Kobach asked every state for "publicly available" voter roll data. That information included the names of registered voters, their addresses, birthdays, the last four digits of their Social Security numbers if available, voter history and other personal information.

Kobach's initial request was met with lawsuits and bipartisan backlash by some states.

Kobach has defended his request but earlier had asked states not to submit their data to the commission until the court ruled on the temporary restraining order.

In a statement Monday, Kobach said the commission looks forward to working with state election leaders to "gather information and identify opportunities to improve election integrity."

"This ruling is a major victory for government accountability, transparency and the public's right to know about the integrity of our elections processes," Kobach said in the emailed statement.

EPIC sued in early July over Kobach's request.

"EPIC will push forward," EPIC President Marc Rotenberg said in a statement following the ruling. "The Commission cannot evade privacy obligations by playing a shell game with the nation's voting records."

The privacy group said in an earlier court filing that "by seeking to assemble an unnecessary and excessive federal database of sensitive voter data from state records systems, (the commission) violated the informational privacy rights of millions of Americans."

The organization also raised concerns over the security of the data and said the commission failed to prepare and publish a Privacy Impact Assessment regarding the information.

Both Trump and Kobach have claimed widespread voter fraud in the 2016 election, though neither has been able to provide firm evidence to prove their statements.

(c)2017 The Kansas City Star (Kansas City, Mo.)