The voter rolls include names, addresses, birthdays, partial Social Security numbers, and in some cases even driver’s license numbers, among other information. But the the email system intended to traffic the information lacks minimal encryption protections, according to the report.
Trump created the commission to investigate charges of alleged voter fraud, though reports of the phenomenon are relatively rare. The commission sent letters to election officials on Wednesday demanding all voter roll data. Several states have already denied the request or access to certain information as illegal, overly intrusive or simply an expensive waste of time.
Mississippi’s Republican Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann said commission members could “go jump in the Gulf of Mexico.”
California’s Democratic Secretary of State Alex Padilla said in a statement that it’s a “waste of taxpayer money” and that he will “not provide sensitive voter information to a commission that has already inaccurately passed judgment that millions of Californians voted illegally.”
California’s “participation would only serve to legitimize the false and already debunked claims of massive voter fraud made by the president, the vice president,” and Kris Kobach, Padilla said.
Kobach, the Kansas secretary of state and vice chair of the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity, has a history of exaggerating voter fraud and pressing laws that have disenfranchised Kansas voters.
While critics say the move is an attempt at voter suppression or intimidation by the Trump White House, the way the data is collected could also open voters to hacking operations that could be devastating to millions.
A data firm that worked on Trump’s 2016 campaign recently inadvertently exposed nearly 200 million voter records online.
Trump is unlikely to astutely take charge of protecting voters’ online security. His understanding of the issue is rudimentary. After he was elected he told reporters that internet security was all but impossible and said the best way to keep communications safe was to deliver information by hand via courier.
“If you have something really important, write it out and have it delivered by courier, the old-fashioned way, because I’ll tell you what, no computer is safe,″ Trump said in response to questions about Russian hacking of Democrats’ email during the campaign.
The letter from the commission asks that the information be submitted to “ElectionIntegrityStaff@ovp.eop.gov,” which doesn’t use basic security protocols, Gizmodo reports, including use of STARTTLS, which encrypts email in transit. STARTTLS is the “minimum security precaution” for information such as the voter data, the activist nonprofit Electronic Frontier Foundation told Gizmodo.
The letter also offers an alternative more secure address at “SAFE site,” but it doesn’t explain the difference or why it might be critical to choose that option and not the first option.
Rick Hasen, an election law expert at the University of California, Irvine, also complained to The Kansas City Star that Kobach’s letter demanding information failed to detail what safeguards would protect sensitive data.
“If Barack Obama tried to get all of this information from state election officials it would be front-page news on Fox News for months and would prompt a congressional investigation of federal takeover of state election processes,” Hasen said.
Trump has claimed repeatedly, without evidence, that millions of people voted illegally in the 2016 election, even though he won the election. Voter fraud is not a widespread problem in the nation, according to several studies.