President Donald Trump’s efforts to crack down on a perceived threat of voter fraud have been, at least temporarily, suspended.
The federal Advisory Commission on Election Integrity told Florida election officials it is rescinding its request for voter registration information now that the commission is being sued by the DC-based nonprofit research group Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC).
“If the requestor indicated they no longer wish to receive the information, we do not process the request,” said Sarah Revell, communications director for the Florida Department of State, in an email to ABC Action News. Revell says the department was just following Florida’s public records laws.
Before the rescinded request, Florida’s Secretary of State was one of just a handful across the country to say they would partially comply with the request to supply the commission with a spreadsheet of Floridians voter registration information. The commission was requesting voter information such as full names, dates of birth, addresses, social security numbers, political party affiliation, and more.
Florida's Department of State says it would not comply with providing some of what the commission requested, including social security numbers, and drivers license numbers. That information is protected by Florida law.
Secretary Ken Detzner of Florida also pointed out that much of that other information was already publicly available.
The commission’s request brought to light an ongoing concern about the personal information of voters that is already publicly available.
“What we're discovering is voters are really having an awakening of how much their information is currently publicly available. They did not know that,” says Brian Corley, Pasco County’s Supervisor of Elections.
Corley has spent the past several weeks, since the commission’s request, trying to convince voters to stay on the voter rolls, sometimes by email, sometimes by phone.
“I cannot tell you the number of conversations I’ve had, and my colleagues have had, where we are literally begging people please don’t leave the voter rolls,” adds Corley.
Corley provided ABC Action News with copies of several of those requests, with personal information redacted. Voters voiced concerns about the safety of their information, and skepticism about the Trump Administration’s purpose in collecting the data.
“The whole thing smells fishy to me and I don't want to have any part in it,” wrote one voter to Corley.
Other elections officials in other parts of the state have reported similar requests.
Corley, and several other Tampa Bay Area supervisors of Election, are pushing for Florida to take part in a growing movement that could help solve the problem. Over twenty states use a non-profit data group called Electronic Registration Information Center (ERIC) that cross checks voter information from different states to make sure voters are not registered in more than one place, or that deceased people are no longer registered, while still keeping the information anonymous and secure.
“It cleans up the rolls,” explains Corley, who would like to see the state legislature adopt use of ERIC in time for the 2018 election cycle.
“We spend a lot of time being in essence cheerleaders for democracy… to have your voice heard at the ballot box,” he said. He thinks ERIC would help restore voter confidence.