Florida ACLU, Miami Immigrants Sue to Stop Trump's Voter Database

If Vice President Mike Pence, Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, and the rest of President Donald Trump's team of voter-suppressing ghouls want to create an extremely creepy database of the nation's voter rolls, the group will have to fight through Miami thanks to a new lawsuit from the Florida ACLU and Florida Immigration Coalition.

“What the president is attempting to do through the 'Election Integrity Commission' is unprecedented,” Florida ACLU Executive Director Howard Simon said today in a news release. “Never before has an agency of the federal government, operating behind closed doors, attempted to amass a federal database of every voter in America.”

For the past few weeks, Pence and Kobach have teamed up to run Trump's "Election Integrity Commission," a group designed to weed out nonexistent cases of voter fraud across the United States. Most political analysts say the group's name is an obvious diversion because Kobach championed laws in Kansas that suppressed Democratic voters. Kobach sent letters last month demanding each state's voter rolls, along with private information such as each voter's social security number; so far, 44 states have refused to hand over nonpublic information.

And now the Florida ACLU has officially filed suit to try to shut the commission down before it truly gets up to anything hokey. The ACLU aims to shut down the Election Integrity Commission "until it complies with federal law." The suit also seeks to stop the State of Florida from sharing any information with the panel.

Florida Secretary of State Ken Detzner said last week that Florida would give the commission only publicly available information and would withhold data such as social security numbers. But the ACLU warned in a statement today that "it is not currently clear whether Florida voters’ information has already been transmitted to the Commission and what, if any, precautions were taken to protect the security of the data," and the organization is therefore trying to stop Detzner from cooperating with the Trump administration.

"This goes beyond any authority the Commission has under the Constitution, federal law, or even the executive order President Trump issued to establish it," Simon says.

In addition to the ACLU and Immigrant Coalition (which are both based in Miami), the suit includes five named plaintiffs. Two of those are well-connected Miami-Dade County residents: former Miami Civilian Investigative Panel member Brenda Shapiro and South Florida AFL-CIO Vice President Luis Meurice. Other plaintiffs include former state Sen. Arthenia Joyner, Tampa City Councilman Mike Suarez, and Broward County resident Joshua Simmons.

A tag team of powerful Florida lawyers, including Miami civil rights attorney Ben Kuehne and state Rep. Joe Geller, is among the 13 attorneys handling the case.

The suit alleges Trump's commission violates the Federal Advisory Committee Act (FACA), which gives the public the right to inspect the records of governmental bodies. The ACLU and Immigration Coalition allege the Integrity Commission is not transparent, has failed to comply with basic FACA rules, and has no legal justification to exist. Trump set up the body using an executive order; the ACLU says Pence and Kobach have overstepped the bounds of that order, so the organization has sued each man personally.

"This Commission’s activities are a smoke-screen for efforts to advance policies designed to suppress the right to vote,” Joyner announced in a statement today. “The Commission’s mission is to support the president’s baseless claims about ‘millions’ of fraudulent ballots costing him the popular vote. The information which they are seeking to collect is the perfect formula for identity theft for any hacker who wants to break into the non-secure server which the Commission is using to have the data sent from the state.”

In addition to breaking federal laws, Kobach and Pence have also broken Florida residents' specific privacy rights, the ACLU claims. Under Florida's Voter Registration Confidentiality statutes, social security numbers are supposed to remain confidential.

"The Presidential Advisory Commission’s request for voter identifying information includes information deemed confidential under Florida law," the suit says.

Depending upon your general worldview, Trump's false claim that "millions" of voters who cast ballots illegally is either a ruse to set up an unprecedented attack on voting rights through restrictive laws passed in the name of so-called integrity, or the paranoid ramblings of a disturbed narcissist. Whether Trump believes his own ramblings or not, he set up his Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity earlier this year and put Pence in charge. (The lawsuit accuses Trump and his associates of propagating "baseless accusations about widespread voter fraud.")

Pence then brought in Kobach, whom the ACLU has previously called the "king of voter suppression." He is apparently as paranoid as Trump. In Kansas, Kobach has tried to institute a smorgasbord of blatantly unconstitutional rules to block people he doesn't like from voting. He instituted what the ACLU called a “Show Me Your Papers” law, which forced people to present a birth certificate or passport to register to vote. A George W. Bush-appointed judge later tossed that rule out, stating it was so discriminatory it had blocked 18,000 people from signing up to vote. Kobach then tried to split voters into two categories that could vote for president but not governor, which was also struck down.

In essence, the ACLU of Florida alleges Kobach and Pence are laying the groundwork for the same sort of restrictions at the national level. The suit also alleges that, in collecting a national database of voter information, it places Floridians at an increased risk for identity theft because the Sunshine State leads the nation in reported fraud cases.

“We cannot be blind to how the state’s voter registration data will be used,” the ACLU's Simon says. “This is a politicized commission that seeks to justify false claims of voter fraud and eventually proposals to address nonexistent in-person voter fraud that will suppress or, at the very least, make it more difficult to vote. In short, we have asked the courts to protect the interests of all voters from having their voter data misused.”

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