- The Washington Times - Thursday, July 6, 2017

The website that the president’s integrity commission is using to collect voter information from states is vulnerable to hacking or leaking of data, a top computer expert said Thursday as privacy advocates beseeched a federal judge to derail the panel’s data sweep.

Harry R. Lewis, a Harvard University professor, said he looked at the Army website the president’s commission is using, and each time he checked it, he got a warning from his web browser that the connection wasn’t solid.

One browser said “attackers might be trying to steal your information,” while another said sending data to the site “could put your confidential information at risk.”

“It is my opinion that [the website] is not a secure website for the transfer of personal data,” Mr. Lewis said in sworn written testimony filed with a federal judge in Washington.

The commission, led by Vice President Mike Pence, has had a rocky start, with a number of states saying they’ll resist efforts to get ahold of their public voter information, and with one group — the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) — filing an emergency lawsuit accusing the panel of breaking federal laws.

Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly is speeding the case along, and has prodded the Trump administration on what steps it’s taking to shield sensitive information from being leaked or hacked.

Commission Vice Chairman Kris W. Kobach has filed briefs with the court insisting that the Army-run website is safe, as is another email address the commission maintains inside the vice president’s office.

But Mr. Lewis’ declaration counters those claims.

Mr. Lewis is a member of EPIC, the group that’s suing.

Mr. Kobach has requested states turn over voter names, dates of birth, vote history, information about felony convictions or military service and even partial Social Security numbers. But he says he only wants information states already make public, so states that don’t release Social Security numbers — which is nearly all of them — would not provide that information.

The commission wants to run the names through federal databases to see if noncitizens or dead people are registered to vote and, if so, how widespread the problem is.

A number of states are resisting, and EPIC says the commission has “no legal authority” to collect information, saying that requesting the data without having safeguards in place violates federal privacy and electronic records laws.

“It does not matter that a particular state might disclose its voter data to some other requester under some other circumstances: this requester — the Commission — is barred by law from gathering this data without sufficient constitutional and statutory privacy safeguards,” EPIC said in court papers.

The commission argued in court papers this week that there’s no right to “informational privacy,” so there’s no intrusion by the panel asking for the information.

In response to the judge’s inquiries, Mr. Kobach said the commission is using the Army-run website to receive large files from state elections officials. The information will then be stored by the White House, he said.

Mr. Kobach also said the email address he gave out is run by the vice president’s office and is subject to all the usual protections of a White House account.

The judge had also prodded Mr. Kobach to explain whether any of the commission’s members are also regular federal agency employees, which could make the commission’s work subject to privacy laws.

Mr. Kobach said one member, Christy McCormick, is part of the federal Election Assistance Commission. But he said she is not acting in her official capacity on the voter integrity panel.

He also released a full list of commission members which, besides himself, Mr. Pence and Ms. McCormick, includes: Indiana Secretary of State Connie Lawson; New Hampshire Secretary of State Bill Gardner; Maine Secretary of State Matt Dunlap; former Ohio Secretary of State Ken Blackwell; former Arkansas state Rep. David Dunn; Wood County (West Virginia) Clerk Mark Rhodes; and Hans Von Spakovsky, a former Federal Election Commission member and now senior legal fellow at The Heritage Foundation.

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