Fed­eral judge rules in fa­vor of voter in­tegrity com­mis­sion

The Washington Times Daily - - POLITICS - BY STEPHEN DINAN

A fed­eral judge Tues­day shot down the lat­est at­tempt to de­rail Pres­i­dent Trump’s voter in­tegrity com­mis­sion, say­ing there wasn’t enough ev­i­dence that Amer­i­cans’ rights are be­ing vi­o­lated by the re­quest for vot­ers’ in­for­ma­tion.

Dis­trict Judge Royce C. Lam­berth even seemed to chide the lawyers for Com­mon Cause, an ac­tivist group that sued the com­mis­sion, when one of them claimed they fear Mr. Trump will find a way to get at vot­ers’ data even if states refuse.

“That’s hard to keep a straight face,” Judge Lam­berth said.

His rul­ing is the lat­est le­gal set­back for the com­mis­sion’s op­po­nents, who have lost two other early court skir­mishes over the panel’s ef­forts to get in­for­ma­tion.

Com­mon Cause had said that re­quest­ing in­for­ma­tion on pro­tected First Amend­ment ac­tiv­i­ties vi­o­lates the Pri­vacy Act, and wanted Judge Lam­berth to halt the process with a tem­po­rary re­strain­ing or­der. The judge re­fused.

He said there’s no ev­i­dence yet that the Pres­i­den­tial Ad­vi­sory Com­mis­sion on Elec­tion In­tegrity has taken ac­tions that would clearly run afoul of the law.

The com­mis­sion has asked all states to turn over pub­licly avail­able in­for­ma­tion on reg­is­tered vot­ers. The goal, com­mis­sion mem­bers said, is to try to check the data against it­self to spot how fre­quently peo­ple are reg­is­tered in more than one place, and to run some names through gov­ern­ment data­bases to try to sniff out de­ceased vot­ers or nonci­t­i­zens.

El­iz­a­beth Shapiro, a Jus­tice Depart­ment lawyer de­fend­ing the com­mis­sion, said the com­mis­sion has only asked for data made pub­lic un­der each state’s law.

That seemed to sway Judge Lam­berth.

“I think that makes a dif­fer­ence,” the judge said. He also said the fact that the com­mis­sion is only re­quest­ing data, not de­mand­ing it, mat­ters.

“No states have been com­pelled to do any­thing,” he said.

Still, he did seem sym­pa­thetic to Com­mon Cause’s claims that the re­quest was broad. At one point he called it “snoop­ing.”

Much of the le­gal case rests on whether the com­mis­sion is a fed­eral agency and must com­ply with myr­iad pri­vacy and pa­per­work laws. The White House ar­gues it’s an ad­vi­sory com­mis­sion with­out any reg­u­la­tory pow­ers, so it doesn’t have to meet all of those strict re­quire­ments.

Op­po­nents said the com­mis­sion has pre­sented a mov­ing tar­get, hav­ing re­peat­edly changed the meth­ods it’s us­ing to col­lect the in­for­ma­tion from states.

“We’re not try­ing to shut the com­mis­sion down,” said Kar­i­anne M. Jones, a lawyer ar­gu­ing the case for Com­mon Cause. “It is sim­ply aimed to stop col­lec­tion of First Amend­ment data.”

Judge Lam­berth ac­knowl­edged that his rul­ing is un­likely to be the last word, as two other cases chal­leng­ing the com­mis­sion have al­ready been ap­pealed to the U.S. Cir­cuit Court of Ap­peals for the Dis­trict of Columbia.

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