Our democratic system is working. Monday, in response to widespread criticism from Republican and Democratic leaders and multiple legal challenges, President Trump’s commission on identifying voter fraud temporarily backed off its overreaching, nationwide request for voter data — which would be stored at the White House.
The request raises obvious concerns about Big Government intrusion. And, as Michael Chertoff, homeland security secretary under President George W. Bush, suggested in a recent Washington Post column, what guarantees are there that the material would be protected from hackers or political insiders?
Trump’s Advisory Commission on Intellectual Integrity wants voter registration data from as far back as 2006, including names, dates of birth, voting histories and the last four digits of voters’ Social Security numbers. But Monday, an official from the commission delayed the request until a judge rules on a lawsuit that charges the request violates privacy laws, ABC News reported.
Good. We hope the judge denies the data request.
The North Carolina Board of Elections had decided to provide to the commission only voting data that is public record — names, addresses, political affiliation and participation in past elections. It won’t release information it gathers to confirm identities but keeps private, such as birthdates, social security numbers and driver’s license numbers. Hundreds of voters complained to the board about the news of the commission’s request, The Associated Press reported, and some asked that their registrations be canceled.
But we urge voters to keep their names on the rolls. We need more voters, not fewer.
We understand their concerns, as well as those of election officials in many states, including Republican-dominated ones, that declined to release the sensitive data. One reason many states objected was the president’s appointment of Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach as co-chair of his commission. Kobach, a Republican, insists that widespread illegal voting occurs, especially by undocumented immigrants, though he’s been unable to produce any evidence to support his assertion.
Voter fraud is a very limited problem, here and nationwide. In April, the N.C. Board of Elections released the results of an extensive audit of the 2016 election. It found that out of 4,769,640 votes cast in the election, only 508 were ineligible.
Any such findings are troubling. But they don’t represent a serious threat to democracy. Of greater concern are the voter registration systems in more than 20 states that hackers, believed to be Russian agents, targeted last fall, according to the Department of Homeland Security. “There is no indication so far that the voting or ballot counting was affected in the November election,” the AP reported, “but officials are concerned that the Russians may have gained knowledge that could help them disrupt future elections.”
These are uncertain times indeed. Good for the groups that challenged the voter commission’s request, including the Electronic Privacy Information Center. Our democracy is working.