Do you want the last four digits of your Social Security number posted on a federal government website accessible by the public?
If your answer to that question is a resounding “no,” you’re not alone.
On July 3, the rights group Electronic Privacy Information Center sued to block the request from President Donald Trump’s Advisory Commission on Election Integrity for data from all 50 states, including registered voters’ names, voting history, political party affiliations, addresses, birth dates and the last four digits of their Social Security numbers. The EPIC said in its complaint that the commission did not conduct a mandatory privacy impact assessment, making the request unlawful.
Bloomberg.com reported that more than two dozen states have already said they legally can’t or won’t comply — either fully or partially — with the panel’s request. Resistance to the request by secretaries of state and other state-level elected officials was bipartisan.
“My reply would be: They can go jump in the Gulf of Mexico, and Mississippi is a great State to launch from,” Mississippi Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann, a Republican, said in a statement. “Mississippi residents should celebrate Independence Day and our State’s right to protect the privacy of our citizens by conducting our own electoral processes.”
Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf, a Democrat, argued that the request and the commission in general are based on falsehoods. “I have serious reservations about the true intentions of this effort in light of the false statements this administration has made regarding voting integrity, the historical suppression of voting rights, and the way that such data has been used in the past,” he said.
The Wisconsin Elections Commission will wait to respond to a federal request for information about the state’s voters until a judge rules on a case challenging the legality of the request, WEC administrator Michael Haas said June 10. The WEC website already makes name, address and Wisconsin election participation back to 2006 publicly available.
President Trump has insisted that there was widespread voter fraud in the 2016 election. But Vox.com reported there have been multiple investigations — by academics, journalists, and nonpartisan think tanks — into voter fraud. None found evidence of anything close to millions of people voting illegally, as Trump has alleged.
A 2012 report from the Pew Center on the States, which Trump and others in his administration have pointed to, found that more than 1.8 million registered voters were actually dead, while 2.75 million had registrations in more than one state.
But we have a two-step system for voting: You register, then vote. The 2012 Pew report only shows that people registered and were never taken off the rolls; as a result, David Becker, who worked on the report, unequivocally said that the report found “zero evidence of fraud.” Another, more recent investigation in North Carolina by the State Board of Elections similarly found just one credible case — out of nearly 4.8 million total votes in 2016 — of in-person voter fraud.
We don’t actually conduct a national election every four years; we conduct 50 state elections which determine delegates to the Electoral College, and those delegates determine the next president. Each state has its own standards, including Electoral College delegate allocation.
On July 14, the Washington Post reported that people responding to the collection and publication of sensitive information – through emails sent to the Election Integrity Commission email address that the administration asked U.S. secretaries of state to send data files to – had, in some cases, their email addresses, home addresses, phone numbers and places of employment released to the public by the White House. The Post reported that “it does not appear that the individuals were aware their comments would be shared by the White House.”
That disclosure doesn’t fill us with confidence that a collection of information on every voter in every state would be handled with care.
The Wall Street Journal reported July 16 that there were nearly 150,000 attempts to penetrate South Carolina’s voter-registration system, and that in Illinois, hackers were hitting the State Board of Elections “5 times per second, 24 hours per day” from late June until Aug. 12, 2016.
As for the last four digits of our Social Security numbers? In light of recent reports, we’d like them to stay right where they are now, in our control.
Correction: An earlier version of this editorial incorrectly reported Michael Haas’ title.
Clarification: WEC Public Information Officer Reid Magney said on July 24 that while a list of Wisconsin voters’ names, addresses and election participation history can be, and frequently is, purchased by political campaigns and other organizations, the WEC would not make available the last four digits of voters’ Social Security numbers.