The presidential commission investigating alleged election fraud has released 112 pages of unredacted emails of public comment, raising further privacy concerns amid a legal challenge to the panel’s request for sensitive voter data.
In many cases, the emails, which are largely critical and often mocking of the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity led by Vice President Pence and Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, contain expletives as well as the sender’s email address.
“This cavalier attitude toward the public’s personal information is especially concerning given the commission’s request for sensitive data on every registered voter in the country,” Theresa Lee, a staff attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union’s Voting Rights Project, said.
However, the vice president’s press secretary, Marc Lotter, in an email cited by The Washington Post, compared the comments to those of “individuals appearing before commission” who would submit their names before making comments.
The public comments come in response to a controversial request to the states for voter information — including names, addresses, birthdates, partial Social Security numbers, party affiliation and felon status. More than a dozen states have refused the request outright, and many of the rest have said state law prohibits them from supplying all of the requested information.
The emails released on Thursday include more than one calling the commission a “sham” and several using the F-word.
One person whose name and email address was published by the commission wrote: “DO NOT RELEASE ANY OF MY VOTER DATA PERIOD.”
Several lawsuits demanding more transparency from the commission have been filed in recent days. Among the groups filing suit for more openness are the Electronic Privacy Information Center and the ACLU.
EPIC President and Executive Director Marc Rotenberg says the commission “hasn’t given much thought to the privacy implications of what they are doing,” adding that this applies to both the request for voter data as well as the decision to release public comments, email addresses and all.
Although a White House blog post on Thursday soliciting written input noted that “the Commission may post such written comments publicly on our website, including names and contact information that are submitted,” it is not clear whether the people who submitted comments earlier were aware that their emails in full would be made public, Rotenberg says.
“These people may well have submitted comments with the expectation that their names and addresses would be removed,” he said.
It is common for federal agencies to publish comments from the public. The Securities and Exchange Commission, for example, warns on its website that: “We do not edit personal identifying information from submissions; submit only information that you wish to make available publicly.”