Federal judges questioned Tuesday whether privacy advocates have the right to sue President Trump’s election-integrity commission to try to block its planned collection of millions of voter records. A three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit seemed skeptical of the specific harm to a privacy watchdog group trying to protect voter data the commission is seeking from 50 states and the District, including individual birth dates, political affiliations and partial Social Security numbers. Judge Stephen F. Williams asserted that the commission’s powers appeared limited to requesting — not demanding — the information from states and said its “potency seems very low.” Judge Douglas H. Ginsburg suggested the commission would have access only to publicly available voter data. “Isn’t this information already public?” he asked the attorney for the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC).
The Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity — led by Vice President Pence and Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach (R) — was created in May to investigate unsubstantiated claims of widespread voter fraud that Trump has said cost him the popular vote in 2016.
In June, the commission asked state election officials to hand over information from voter registration files. More than a dozen states, including Maryland and Virginia, have partially or entirely rejected the commission’s request, because of concerns about data breaches and state laws limiting disclosures.