Trump’s Anti-Voter Fraud Commission: Judge Says Yes, Massachusetts Says No

Printed from:

BOSTON — A federal judge may have tossed out a bid to block President Donald Trump’s voter integrity team from collecting data from all 50 states, but don’t expect Massachusetts officials to be sending the White House any information.

Debrah O’Malley, a spokesman for Secretary of State William Galvin, told New Boston Post on Tuesday that the ruling will not affect the state’s decision to opt out of providing the Presidential Election Commission, tasked with investigating voter fraud allegations, with any voter data.

“This ruling was regarding the data that some states are already providing them with,” she said. “Our office is still not providing them with any data.

“The ruling does not change anything for us.”

Galvin has previously asserted that voter data does not fall under the banner of Massachusetts public records. State law does allow, however, Galvin’s office to make voter data available to political parties and other campaigns. 

“The central voter registration is not a public record. Period,” former Galvin spokesman Brian McNiff told the State House News Service at the end of last month.

The applicable state statute governing who can and cannot view the state’s central voter registry makes it clear that it in the end, the decision is Galvin’s alone:


Monday’s ruling by Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia struck down a motion made by the D.C.-based Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) to block state election officials from providing voter data to Trump’s team.  Kollar-Kelly, who was tapped for the post in 1997 by then-President Bill Clinton, wrote in her 35-page opinion (see attached below) that since Trump’s panel functions in an advisory role, it is not forced to adhere to the same rules governing federal government agencies.

Trump’s commission is asking for the name, address, birth date, party affiliation, final four social security number digits and voter history, dating back 11 years, for every voter in every state. 

Kollar-Kotelly’s ruling was highly technical — she found that had Trump’s commission acted on its original plan to use a website run by the U.S. Department of Defense for data collection, it would likely have violated privacy laws, but since the commission now intends to use an online server based out of the White House, the practice is lawful because it does not involve a federal agency.

Court filings show that Justice Department officials have repeatedly stated that Trump’s White House is not demanding that states comply with the information request — they are instead asking for it — but coverage of the issue by various media outlets appears to have distorted the matter:


“Defendants’ request for information is just that — a request — and there is no evidence that they have sought to turn the request into a demand, or to enforce the request by any means,” Kollar-Kotelly wrote. “Furthermore, the request for voter roll information, according to defendants, is ancillary to the commission’s stated purpose of producing an advisory report for the president regarding voting processes in federal elections.”

Mark Rotenberg, president of EPIC, said in a prepared statement that his organization will “push forward” and declared that Trump’s commission “cannot evade privacy obligations by playing a shell game with the nation’s voting records.”

Alan Butler, senior counsel for EPIC, added that “the Commission’s efforts to gather personal data should not escape judicial review” and announced that the organization “will be looking closely to see what the commission does next.”

Even EPIC has sought to paint the Trump administration’s request as a flat-out demand.

“EPIC filed suit against the commission — the first such lawsuit in the country — five days after the commission demanded personal voter records from state election officials,” the organization notes in its coverage of the case.

The Democratic National Committee has labeled Trump’s commission as a “voter-suppression commission.”

“Reporting and previous investigations have already shown that Trump’s cries of nation-wide voter fraud carry no weight, and the DNC aims to shed more light on any attempts to keep Americans out of the voting booth,” the DNC’s late-May statement announced. “The President’s baseless claims are nothing but a dangerous threat to democracy, and need to be recognized as such.”

DNC Chairman Tom Perez told McClatchy earlier this month that party officials believe a sudden drop in the number of voter registrations in Colorado is likely a sign that Trump’s commission is intimidating segments of the American population.

“If you unregister, you are giving a victory to proponents of voter suppression,” Perez
told the news agency.

READ Judge Kollar-Kotelly’s opinion:

2017-07-25 Electronic Privacy Center Opinion Ruling by Evan on Scribd