David Wants Someone To Explain Why The Fuck Trump Needs Sensitive Voter Data

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Via David Becker for The Hill 

It’s an understatement to say the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity’s request to every state for highly-sensitive personal information on every U.S. voter is raising major concerns among leaders in almost every state.

Chaired by Vice President Pence and co-chaired by Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, both Republicans, they asked for data including voters’ dates of birth, political party, last four digits of Social Security numbers, felon status and military status. The commission gave the states the option to send all this personal information by e-mail and said that all documents submitted to the commission would be “made available to the public.”

Dozens of states, from deeply blue to deeply red to everything in between, either refused to provide any personal data on voters, or agreed only to provide the minimum of what the law in their state required (usually just name, address and political party information).

Incredibly, even secretaries of state that serve on this commission, including Secretaries Lawson of Indiana, Dunlap of Maine, and Gardner of New Hampshire, and Secretary Kobach himself, have refused to turn over all the information requested. And for good reason.

In almost every state, the data requested is protected by law, and by sophisticated security measures. The reason why is obvious — this information could be easily misused for purposes of identity theft, or worse.

Imagine if the commission obtained a complete list of all voters who serve in the military, with their home addresses, or a list of every voter’s date of birth and partial Social Security number, and made that public to anyone with an internet connection? For these reasons, privacy advocates have strongly advised states not to comply with this request.

Why is the panel seeking to create an unprecedented national dataset of personal information of Americans to be made available to the public?

The commission would only say that they needed to “fully analyze vulnerabilities and issues related to voter registration and voting.” There were no specifics related to how this data would allow such an analysis, what the methodology would be, and what conclusions they might be able to reach.

And therein lies the problem. There are only two ways that the commission’s request could have gone. First, they could have hoped that the states would just hand over reams of highly confidential personal to create a national public repository. This would have likely violated many laws, and served as a treasure trove for anyone seeking to steal personal data or intimidate members of the military.

Or, the commission should have anticipated that the states, taking seriously their roles as caretakers of their citizens’ information, would resist such a national consolidation of personally identifiable information, and realized their best case scenario was obtaining only the public voter file – essentially name and address. But anyone with the slightest experience with voter data would tell you that such data is essentially worthless for any analysis.

I’ve worked with voter data for many years, having led one of the leading studies on inaccuracies of the voter lists. We found was that one needs multiple data points beyond name, address, and even date of birth, to effectively analyze voter data.

For example, imagine finding a voter record for a Sean O’Hara living at 123 First Street in Los Angeles, California, and another for a Sean O’Hara living at 456 First Avenue in Las Vegas, Nevada. Based on just that information, it’s impossible to confirm if those records reflect the same Mr. O’Hara, or much more likely two different individuals with the same common name. Adding the birthdate doesn’t help much, as many people with the same name share a birthdate, a phenomenon known as “The Birthday Problem.” Indeed, a recent research paper concluded that using only name and birthdate results in 200 times as many false matches as correct matches.

I led an effort several years ago, working with election officials of both parties and experts to solve the problem of inaccurate voter records, most of which are not due to fraud at all, but rather because so many Americans move between elections. We realized early on that we needed a sophisticated methodology incorporating multiple data points to be at all useful, and we needed to develop a comprehensive legal, physical, and technical security framework to protect that process and the data within.

The result was the Electronic Registration Information Center (ERIC), a data center which helps states keep their voter lists more accurate than ever before. ERIC is run and funded entirely by the politically diverse states that chose to join it — states as blue as Oregon and Connecticut and as red as Alabama and Utah.

And the twenty states that make up ERIC mandated a comprehensive security plan that anonymizes all private data and protects its transmission and storage. In the five years since its founding, ERIC has helped states update the voter records of over 5 million Americans, ensuring fewer problems at the polls.

These efforts are well-known to members of the commission, and in fact, membership in ERIC was recommended by the Presidential Commission on Election Administration (PCEA) only three years ago.

But this current commission didn’t take the care to develop a plan to protect the data first, and justify its use, dooming this effort to failure. And if it had, the data it requested was unlikely to be useful.

Even worse, all these taxpayer resources are being spent to research a question to which we already know the answer – the extent to which voter fraud exists. On this point, every piece of research conducted by states both red and blue, academics, and even the Bush Department of Justice, agrees – voter fraud exists but only barely. It is extremely rare, comprising only thousandths of a percent of the total ballots cast.

Which begs the question– why is the federal government marshaling considerable taxpayer resources to collect data it shouldn’t have, to reach a conclusion it cannot possibly reach, to prove something we already know isn’t true?

Sadly, the answer may have been provided by the president himself last week, when he tweeted that the commission was actually a “voter fraud panel.” This traces back to the President’s entirely unsubstantiated claims post-election that he “won the popular vote if you deduct the millions of people who voted illegally.” The White House cited a Pew report to justify his claims – a report which says absolutely nothing about voter fraud. I should know – I authored that report. Perhaps some of the commissioners themselves are wondering what they’ve gotten themselves into, as one of the Republican members of the commission resigned Monday, before the commission had even met.

So as we celebrate our nation’s birthday this week, the president of the United States is squandering taxpayer resources putting Americans’ personal data at risk to rationalize a statement everyone knows is false. Meanwhile, we face a real risk to our democracy– the continuing and increasing cyber attacks on our election infrastructure from Russia and other foreign adversaries.

I’ve been speaking with election officials all over the country this summer, including this weekend as the nation’s secretaries of state convene for their summer meeting, and I can say that all of these professionals – Republicans and Democrats, state and local – are laser-focused on this issue, and working tirelessly to ensure their voters can feel confident that their votes will count.

But regarding the very real threat of foreign interference in our elections, the White House seems singularly unconcerned.

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5 thoughts on “David Wants Someone To Explain Why The Fuck Trump Needs Sensitive Voter Data

  1. He is a conspiracy theorist and does not trust anything involving the government. He is convinced there is no way in hell he did not have the majority vote. Now that he is at the top of the food chain he wants to prove it. He wants to find those illegal votes! Nothing else is important to him.

    He is gonna end up in one of two places….either behind bars OR wrapped in a white jacket and tied to a bed.

    – Murphy

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  2. Well, being old and fearful of how our democracy may well be in trouble, I think we should maybe wonder if this type of action on the part of the federal government could end up leading to strong interference with voters’ rights. But go ahead and reject this because quite frankly I am very suspicious of Steve Bannon’s role in our govt. as well as why Trump seems to favor a cabinet (and others) who have strong ties to Russia and or the Ukraine.

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  3. Trump and his comrades created the voter fraud panel for obvious reasons: It provides a platform from which he can (1) repeat his lies to his followers as to how the 2016 popular vote actually was won by him, (2) begin to rally state, county and local entities sympathetic to his causes as well private groups and persons of every kind to commence their voter suppression strategies for 2018, and (3) use the lies that voter fraud panel will publish to justify new Federal Executive Orders on the subject. What kind of E.O.s? He will seek to sign E.O.s which will operate to repeal or dilute the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and the major congressional amendments to it, most of which were enacted during administrations presided over by Republican presidents, and two of which were enacted to legislatively overrule opinions of the US Supreme Court (handed down by so-called conservative members of the court which effectively rolled back some of the protections of the Act. Trump will also use the E.O.s to encourage Congress to passage legislation to accomplish the same result.

    So, during the campaign, when Trump stated: ““Tonight, I’m asking for the vote of every single African American citizen in this country who wants to see a better future,” and the Great Con Man then asked, “What do you have to lose by trying something new, like Trump?” is there anyone left in this country who doesn’t know the answer today?

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  4. Trump’s resistance to investigate Russia election influence is simple. As they say – more or less – follow the motivation. Trump’s motivation is his re-election campaign – which he knows is like his first election – wholly dependent on direct and illegal assistance from from his Russian overlord – Putin and associates.

    As we discover daily, there was a huge amount of contact between Trump senior campaign members and Russian intelligence operatives representing Putin’s interest. While political campaign contact with foreign “allies” is certainly not unheard from prior elections and with both political parties, but contact and apparent assistance from foreign nations that are considered primary threats and enemies to the US is unheard of.

    Unfortunately, Trump’s contact and assistance from enemy’s of the US with his election is not the US’s larger problem. The problem for the US is the election “system” that not only allowed Trump to become elected this way, but as well a Justice system and a self-serving Republican Congress that still can’t figure out what to do about it – or how to do anything in a timely and efficient manner.

    Clearly, we have a man in the Presidency that has demonstrated himself to be something other and far less – legally and capably (mentally) – than those who voted for – thought him to be. Now we are stuck with trying to reform a dysfunctional election system – with those who benefited from it in positions of authority. It is no surprise at all that they want to maintain our sloppy, corrupted, and “pay-to-play” election and Justice system just as it is for their own continued benefit.

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    • DUGGER, excellent comment and bears repeating!!

      “Clearly, we have a man in the Presidency that has demonstrated himself to be something other and far less – legally and capably (mentally) – than those who voted for – thought him to be. Now we are stuck with trying to reform a dysfunctional election system – with those who benefited from it in positions of authority. It is no surprise at all that they want to maintain our sloppy, corrupted, and “pay-to-play” election and Justice system just as it is for their own continued benefit.”

      It should not be this difficult to get rid of this ridiculous and dangerous man. This error in judgement by the Electoral College voters should not be allowed to continue to disrupt and destroy our democratic society. The damage being done to our environment alone is extremely harmful – Scott Pruitt is destroying years of air and water purification already; cannot imagine what it will be like in a few more years! The financial burden due to excessive expenses of the Secret Service and transportation costs of this presidency is astronomical, plus years to come! The healthcare is already a joke and no end in sight – millions of people are suffering anxiety due to fear of no affordable healthcare. His entire family is either corrupt or completely ignorant of civilized behavior. The lie after lie after lie and attempts to deceive and cover-up is intolerable! Highly suspicious and numerous connections to Russia; then denied and later to be discovered and explained with more lies and cover-ups! He chooses his words carefully but ‘insinuates’ using one of his favorite catch-phrases, “some people are saying” or “some one told me” – another way he forms his constant lies or hoodwinks!

      Relationships with ALL of our (former?) allies is highly questionable! Relationships with N. Korea now at the brink of collapse into war. Disruption of the improved relations with Cuba only because Trump is so jealous of Obama and wants to overturn everything he did. His desired and cultivating relationship with Putin is outrageous and not only to Americans. Trump’s 100% bullshit about hire America, make in America, buy only made in America – look at his buildings, workforces and employees, products and his labels, nothing from his daughter, nothing at all, is made in America. Hell, a crop of his MAGA hats were made in China!

      He fakes his way thru all conversations, talks in circles, typical con method of fooling his audience! Majority of this America is smarter than he is and clearly recognize every single thing I have said is true. The Republican barricade protecting this sniveling lying jackass must be removed and we can drag him out of our White House! The sooner the safer!

      – Murphy

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