Our Voting Privacy — VIOLATED!!!

Although there was no credible evidence of major or wide-spread voter fraud in the 2016 presidential election, the person who won that election claims there was.  I see this as a smoke screen to hide the bigger issue that Russia, probably with assistance from Trump and many associated with his campaign, actually DID interfere with the election.  But the Russian interference is another story and has been much-covered already.  Donald Trump, based on his false claims of voter fraud, formed a ‘Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity’ to take a magnifying glass and look for those mostly non-existent fraudulent voters. Trump established the commission on 11 March via one of his multitude of ‘executive orders’. A waste of taxpayers’ money, to be sure, but so are Trump’s weekly golf outings.

golfThis commission has now, however, crossed a line.  On Wednesday, all 50 states were sent letters* from Kris Kobach, the vice chair of the commission, requesting information on voter fraud, election security and copies of every state’s voter roll data. The letter asked state officials to deliver the data within two weeks, and says that all information turned over to the commission will be made public. The letter does not explain what the commission plans to do with voter roll data.  The data they requested would include:

  • Name
  • Address
  • Date of birth
  • Party affiliation
  • Last four digits of social security number
  • Voting history from 2006 thru present
  • Information regarding felony convictions
  • Information regarding military status

kobachThe first three on the list are not atypical and not of particular concern, though I do not wish John Q. Public knowing my address.  And even party affiliation is easily accessible, as most states make this information available to political campaigns … for a fee.  What is disturbing, however, is the request for social security number, even though it is only the last four digits, that number is the key to everything about us and should be safeguarded.  And the most disturbing item on the list is the request for ten years’ voting history!  This blows to shreds the theory of a secret ballot, the theory that nobody should know how we voted unless we choose to share that information, and in this case we are not being given that choice.

The notation that the information will be made public is potentially a disaster, and very concerning, since obviously little or no consideration of privacy rights has gone into this. Unfortunately, many may have failed to even notice this story because all the headlines have been focused on Trump’s ugly, sexist tweets against a member of the media.  Did he do that as a smoke screen?  It’s too bad that we automatically question his motives every time he opens his mouth or engages his tiny tweeting fingers, but history has shown us to trust nothing he says or does.

Some states and civil rights groups were not pleased by this letter:

“I have no intention of honoring this request. Virginia conducts fair, honest, and democratic elections, and there is no evidence of significant voter fraud in Virginia.” – Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe

Connecticut’s Secretary of State, Denise Merrill, said she would “share publicly-available information with the Kobach Commission while ensuring that the privacy of voters is honored by withholding protected data. [Kobach] has a lengthy record of illegally disenfranchising eligible voters in Kansas … given Secretary Kobach’s history we find it very difficult to have confidence in the work of this Commission.”

“The concern is that this is going to be used to justify regressive and disenfranchising federal law. Why does a random member of the public . . . need to know when you last voted and what your political party is? I think that access to this data in the wrong hands could always leave the opportunity for mischief. In this particular instance, I’m worried about harassment as well.” – Myrna Pérez, deputy director of the democracy program at New York University Law School’s Brennan Center for Justice

Vanita Gupta, chief executive of the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights and former head of the Justice Department’s civil rights division, said on Twitter that the letter is “laying the groundwork for voter suppression, plain & simple.”

“You’d think there would want to be a lot of thought behind security and access protocols for a national voter file, before you up and created one. This is asking to create a national voter file in two weeks.” – Justin Levitt, a professor at Loyola University School of Law and former Department of Justice civil rights official.

My concerns are multi-fold.  First, of course, is the plan to make this information public — a move that could compromise our personal security.  Second, and of perhaps in the long run of even greater concern, is that I do not trust Donald Trump.  He claims that the Democrats and the press are engaged in a conspiracy against him, so … if given easy access to our political affiliation and our voting record for the last ten years, what mischief might he perpetuate against those who are registered Democrats, or who voted for someone other than Trump last year?  And third, there is Kobach himself.

kobach-2

This picture in itself makes me distrust Mr. Kobach!

Kris W. Kobach serves as the Kansas Secretary of State, a position he has held since 2011.  He is known for his hardliner views on immigration, as well as his calls for greater voting restrictions and a Muslim registry. Kobach regularly makes claims about the extent of voter fraud in the United States that several nonpartisan studies have shown are unsubstantiated. I would almost call him a conspiracy theorist. He has implemented some of the strictest voter ID legislation in the nation and has fought to remove nearly 20,000 properly registered voters from the state’s voter rolls. He was also a part of Trump’s conspiracy over the faux ‘birther’ issue, questioning President Obama’s place of birth.

Kobach did, after much time and money wasted on researching voter fraud, successfully secure convictions in nine cases of voter fraud … the nine individuals were not illegal immigrants but rather most were older registered Republicans!

Last October, a federal judge ruled that some of Kobach’s proposed ID requirements constituted a “mass denial of a fundamental constitutional right.” And earlier this month, a Judge James O’Hara fined Kobach $1,000 for presenting misleading arguments in a voting-related lawsuit.  This man sees illegal voters behind every tree, it seems, and apparently has no qualms about disenfranchising thousands with his restrictive voter I.D. laws.

The chairman of the commission is none other than Mike Pence, who seems to be taking a backseat and letting Kobach run the commission. So, to recap, the three main people involved with collecting our data and using it in ways that we are not being told, then making it publicly available, are Donald Trump, Mike Pence, and Kris Kobach, each of whom are proven racists, and highly untrustworthy individuals.  I call on every state official who may be involved in the decision, to decline to accede to the demands of the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity.  We The People do not trust the members of this commission and do not want our information shared with them.  Okay, folks, time to start sending those emails and making those phone calls again!

Update:  As of this writing, at least 3  5  25   27 states are refusing to comply!

* Copy of Letter Sent to All 50 States

The Plot Thickens …

flynnOne of Trump’s cabinet picks that I have not written about yet is National Security Advisor, Michael Flynn.  I did not intentionally neglect him, but there are only so many hours in a day, and I simply had not gotten around to him.  Turns out, I should have. Flynn, a retired United States Army lieutenant general, served 33 years in the U.S. Army.  Trump named him to be National Security Advisor, a position which does not require the advice and consent of the Senate. Concerns about Flynn began almost immediately, for his purported close relations with Russia, and for his role in the smear campaign against Hillary Clinton, using fake news and conspiracy theories in an attempt to discredit Ms. Clinton.

Having already proven that he is not above playing dirty pool, it should come as no surprise that he may have significantly breeched a code of conduct and broken the law on Christmas Day, 2016, during a conversation with the Russian ambassador to the U.S., Sergey Kislyak.  That a conversation between Flynn and Kislyak took place on December 25th is verifiable fact.  The content of the conversation is what seems to be in dispute, and much is yet unknown.  However, I am a firm believer that when there is a lot of smoke in the house, you ought to call the fire department.  First, Flynn claimed that he only called Kislyak to wish him a “Merry Christmas”.  Then, it was said by the Trump transition team that the two discussed arrangements for a phone call between Trump and Putin.

Note that this was at a point during the final days of President Obama’s administration when he had a tough decision to make.  It had been confirmed that Russia was behind the hacking of the DNC and releasing confidential information that may have affected the election.  As of December 25th, President Obama had made the decision to impose sanctions on Russia, but had not yet done so.

Now comes the part that is not, as yet, verified, but that may well be a smoking gun.  According to nine “unnamed current and former national security sources”, Flynn allegedly gave Kislyak a ‘heads up’ that President Obama planned to impose sanctions, but not to worry, as Trump would remove them once he took office.

In January, Mike Pence stated that the two “did not discuss anything having to do with the United States’ decision to expel diplomats or impose censure against Russia.” Then as recently as Wednesday, Flynn was asked twice whether he had discussed the sanctions with Kislyak, to which he responded both times that he had not. Then the very next day, Thursday, Flynn’s spokesperson said that Flynn, “indicated that while he had no recollection of discussing sanctions, he couldn’t be certain that the topic never came up.”  He cannot remember if he discussed the forthcoming sanctions or not. This is where the trouble starts.

putinFour days after the conversation between Flynn and Kislyak, President Obama announced the sanctioning of Russian intelligence officials, expulsion of 35 Russian diplomats suspected of being spies and shutting down two Russian facilities in the United States. Many expected Putin to respond angrily and with retaliation, but instead he simply said, “It is regrettable that the Obama administration is ending its term in this manner. Nevertheless, I offer my New Year greetings to President Obama and his family.” It was puzzling, at the time, almost sinister, but if he already knew of the sanctions and knew they would soon be lifted, that would explain a lot. Trump, of course, condemned the president and praised Putin.

The FBI continues to investigate, and even if it can be proven that Flynn did, in fact, discuss the sanctions with Kislyak, the outcome is still uncertain. I cannot speculate. Flynn served under President Obama as director of the Defense Intelligence Agency until his firing (or resignation, depending on which version you read) in 2014, amid controversy about his chaotic management style (a good fit with his current boss, yes?).  Under another president, Flynn would likely be ousted if the accusations prove true, but under Trump, even the political analysts are not predicting what will happen.  Trump will almost certainly attempt to put some positive spin on the whole thing, but first you can bet that he will call it all ‘fake news’ by a ‘biased media’.  Meanwhile … stay tuned …