WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump’s voter fraud commission has put on hold its request to states for extensive voter data this week in response to a privacy lawsuit and amid new legal challenges by a civil rights group and the ACLU over open government laws.
The Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity emailed states Monday telling them not to submit any voter information until a federal judge rules on the Electronic Privacy Information Center lawsuit’s request to temporarily block the data collection.
The commission’s vice chairman, Kris Kobach, on June 28 asked states to submit by Friday publicly available data, but also requested voters’ last four Social Security digits, political affiliations, criminal records and other sensitive data to examine for voter fraud.
The request prompted New York and more than a dozen other states to refuse to comply, stirred opponents of the commission to try to block it in court and led some voters in Colorado, North Carolina, Florida and Arizona to cancel their voter registrations to protect their privacy.
The commission, chaired by Vice President Mike Pence and led by Kobach, the Kansas secretary of state, was created by Trump to study registration and voting processes and to report on “vulnerabilities” in those systems that could lead to “fraudulent voting.”
The White House did not respond to a request for comment on the lawsuits.
Kristen Clark, president and executive director of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, complained that the commission was part of one of the “most vicious attempts to suppress the vote we have seen in modern times.”
The Lawyer’s Committee on Tuesday sued the commission, asking the court to require it to make available its documents, emails and proceedings — which it has so far withheld — and to make its meeting Monday, now available only by streaming video, open and accessible to the public.
Clark said the lawsuit also charges that Trump and Kobach are using the commission to advance their own personal agendas — Trump to validate his claim that 3 to 5 million people voted illegally last year and Kobach to help his run for governor of Kansas.
The national ACLU on Monday also filed a lawsuit seeking an injunction from a court to force the commission to follow open government and transparency laws.
Both the ACLU and Lawyers’ Committee say the commission must comply with Federal Advisory Committee Act, or FACA. In a filing in the lawsuit by the privacy center, commission lawyers said they “do not concede that FACA applies to the Commission.”
The privacy center’s lawsuit, filed on July 3, charges that the commission is seeking to make an “unprecedented collection of state voter data” gathered through a non-secure method to be made public without first assessing the impact on personal privacy as required by law.