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Federal Judge Green Lights Collection of Voter Data

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On Monday, a federal judge in Washington DC declined to block the Voter Integrity Commission’s efforts to collect voter data from all 50 states. The commission, put in place by President Donald Trump, asked for voter roll information in late June, triggering a series of lawsuits that claimed the request was in violation of privacy rights as protected by the Constitution.

As reported by CNN, Kris Kobach, the Vice Chairman of the Voter Integrity Commission, sent a letter to officials in all 50 states asking for voter roll data. Many states openly declined to provide the information and numerous lawsuits were filed, including one from a privacy rights advocacy group.

Kobach asserted the request only covered data that is considered publicly available under applicable state law.

Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly of the US District Court in Washington DC determined the suit filed by the Electronic Privacy Information Center did not have sufficient standing regarding its claims.

“Under these factual circumstances… the only practical harm that plaintiff’s advisory board members would suffer, assuming their respective states decide to comply with the commission’s request in the future, is that their already publicly available information would be rendered more easily accessible by virtue of its consolidation on the computer systems that would ultimately receive this information on behalf of the Commission,” said Kollar-Kotelly.

Kollar-Kotelly further clarified her decision by asserting that the White House Information Technology office, the organization tasked with collecting the data from voter rolls, is not considered an independent “agency.” This takes certain federal statutes upon which the Electronic Privacy Information Center was relying for their case to become irrelevant, and led to the conclusion that a federal court “cannot presently exert judicial review over the collection process.”

The judge did confirm her order was based on present circumstances and, should they change, the Electronic Privacy Information Center could seek a different decision.

The Trump administration has come out ahead on several other litigation attempts directed at the request for voter information. However, at least one other suit that was filed by the NAACP Legal Defense & Educational Fund has yet to be resolved.

This suit alleges that statements made by Trump and other officials demonstrate that the Voter Integrity Commission was created with the intent to discriminate against minority voters. It is currently pending in a New York federal court.