Despite Court Ruling, Privacy Watchdog Vows to Keeping Fighting Against Trump's Election Panel

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Despite Court Ruling, Privacy Watchdog Vows to Keeping Fighting Against Trump's Election Panel

'The Commission cannot evade privacy obligations by playing a shell game with the nation's voting records,' says group

The commission asked states last month to provide publicly available data including names, birth dates and partial Social Security numbers, but it later told them to hold off until a judge ruled on a lawsuit filed by the Electronic Privacy Information Center in Washington. On Monday, a federal judge ruled against the challenge. (Photo: David P/flickr)

Despite a federal judge's ruling on Monday rejecting a challenge to an election commission established by President Donald Trump, the privacy watchdog behind a lawsuit aimed at blocking the collection of detailed voter data from across the country vows to press ahead with its opposition.

The ruling from the federal court in Washington, D.C. relates to the controversial panel which critics argue is using bogus claims of "voter fraud" to compile data on nearly every voter in the country—information that could then be used to actually supress the vote in future elections.

"Now that this body exists," wrote the Washington Post's EJ Dionne in his latest column, "it will almost certainly try to find ways to rationalize purging legitimate voters from the rolls and erecting yet more barriers to voting."

On Monday's 35-page ruling on Monday, Politico's Josh Gerstein reports,

U.S. District Court Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly denied a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction the Electronic Privacy Information Center [EPIC] sought against the panel formally known as the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity.

Kollar-Kotelly said the commission and a White House information technology office did not appear to qualify as federal agencies and therefore did not trigger the requirement for a privacy impact assessment.

The voter fraud panel is headed by Vice President Mike Pence and Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, a leading figure in the crusade against illegal voting that many experts say is extraordinarily rare.

In response to the ruling, EPIC expressed disappointment and said they would continue to challenge the collection.

"EPIC will  push forward," said Marc Rotenberg, the group's president in a statement (pdf). "The Commission cannot evade privacy obligations by playing a shell game with the nation's voting records."

The group said they will continue to monitor the behavior of the commission and noted a section of Kollar-Kotelly's ruling in which she said that future behavior of the panel will be monitored by the court.

"Defendants have represented that they are only collecting voter information that is already publicly available under the laws of the states where the information resides; and Defendants have clarified that such information, to the extent it is made public, will be de-identified. All of these representations were made to the Court in sworn declarations, and needless to say, the Court expects that Defendants shall strictly abide by them."

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