Trump Puts Voter Data Collection On Hold After Highly Insecure & Potentially Illegal Process Is Widely Ridiculed

from the encryption-is-for-losers dept

At the tail end of June, The Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity turned heads when it began asking states for confidential voter data. The Commission was formed via executive order back in May as part of a supposed effort to crack down on what the Trump administration has insisted (without any supporting evidence) is an epidemic of widespread voting and voter registration fraud. As part of the data collection the Trump administration demanded voter names, political affiliations, addresses, dates of birth, criminal records, the last four digits of their Social Security numbers, and more.

But it didn’t take long for the entire effort to unravel. The commission’s first misstep was asking states to submit this personal data via unencrypted e-mail. The commission also offered states the ability to deliver the data via a system called SAFE?the Safe Access File Exchange. Traditionally used by the military for the transfer of unclassified files too large for email, the service does allow encrypted transfers via civilian computers, but would have required numerous technical steps and guidance (the commission didn’t take or offer) to adequately protect the data’s integrity:

“But the site?s HTTPS setup, which enables data transmitted from a browser to the site to be sent over an encrypted connection, is problematic for civilian users in state governments. In fact, when state government officials visit the website, they are greeted with a conspicuous warning telling them that their connection is not private?implying that the data could be stolen or altered in transit.”

The commission’s attempt to obtain private voter data by insecure means was quickly and surprisingly laughed off by the majority of states concerned with the obvious privacy implications. Only Arkansas has fully complied with the President’s request, and many states expressed concern that the request and insecure transfer of private data could violate respective state voter privacy laws. Trump’s response to these entirely legitimate, bipartisan concerns about voter privacy? Taking to Twitter to accuse the states of trying to hide something:

Things have been notably complicated by a lawsuit by the ACLU, which claims the commission violated federal public access requirements by holding its first meeting in private, without public notice. The effort has also been hamstrung by a request by The Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) for a temporary restraining order (TRO) on the administration’s request until the privacy issue can be litigated in court. That has subsequently forced the Trump administration and its commission to suspend its data collection efforts until a Judge rules on the request:

“Today, July 10, 2017, the Commission also sent the states a follow-up communication requesting the states not submit any data until this Court rules on plaintiff’s TRO motion,” the government wrote (PDF) the court. The commission e-mailed state election officials early Monday that, “Until the judge rules on the TRO, we request that you hold on submitting any data.”

EPIC is suing the commission on accusations that the requested information violates the privacy of American voters. EPIC also says the commission is asking the states to forward the data to an unsecure website, the Department of Defense Safe File Exchange site. The commission said that, if it prevails, it will “use an alternative means for transmitting the requested data.”

This all appears to be driven by Trump’s belief that the only way he could have possibly lost the popular vote is due to fraud (which again, nobody has found any evidence of). Bubbling under all of this is the additional concern that this entire effort has little to do with actually policing voter fraud, and everything to do with finding new and ingenious methods of voter suppression down the road.

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Comments on “Trump Puts Voter Data Collection On Hold After Highly Insecure & Potentially Illegal Process Is Widely Ridiculed”

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Anonymous Coward says:

Re: PR stunt

This ‘Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity’ is just a normal public relation ploy — routine at all levels of government —
” Let’s form a commission to study problem XXX “

This new Trump Commission has no legal authority and cannot force information from anybody. It deals in “requests” only.

Dumb idea. Federal Election Commission (FEC) already exists and probably has all the basis data sought. Many other Federal agencies have have relevant data available. White House staff could easily get data and analysis from their subordinate agencies.

However, election fraud is well documented at the state/local level for past 60 years … and there’s enough to indicate big problems nationwide.

“People who vote decide nothing. People who count the vote decide everything. (– Joseph Stalin)

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re:

It’s also worth noting that there’s a simple answer to the orange moron’s question – the states that are refusing are largely doing so because their records contain confidential personal information which would involve violating state or federal law if they were to release it. That is, “what they’re trying to hide” is information that’s illegal for them to release. A person who knew how the country actually operated would probably know that, instead there’s a gameshow host in charge who only knows how to get things by bullying rather than addressing facts and nuance.

What’s sad is the idiots who voted for him will probably believe his claim that it’s something personal rather than a matter that mature adults would understand.

Thad (user link) says:

Re: Re: Re:

Let’s not paint with too broad a brush. Trump does have an unshakeable core of supporters who will never turn on him no matter what, but there are also Trump voters who didn’t like him very much but liked Clinton even less, Trump voters who voted for him because they liked him but are liking him less and less, and Trump voters who still like him but believe he’s wrong on this particular issue. Hell, most of the governors and secretaries of state that aren’t complying with the order are probably Trump voters themselves. Hell, Kobach himself, the vice chair of the commission, has said he can’t share SSNs with the feds.

Wendy Cockcroft (user link) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

A person who knew how the country actually operated

Administration is the backbone of any operation. Well, I would say that since it’s my job but it is true; without accurate records collation and management and efficient processing how can you expect to get anything done?

The main purpose of administration is accountability; to make and maintain a paper trail so we know what’s going on. That the "small government" brigade are against that should not surprise anyone since all they want is power.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

To be fair, everything on that list (apart from political affiliation) is necessary if the commission wants to actually do the job it was created to do.

Is that job necessary and/or important enough to give this information to them? Probably not. But that’s an issue with the creation of the commission in the first place. Since it has been created and given a task, it requesting that information is completely reasonable, though the insecure delivery method is not.

Anonymous Anonymous Coward (profile) says:

Re: Re: how much for a 50 copy license of winzip?

Locks are made to keep honest people honest. If the bad folks want in, they will get in, no matter the strength of the lock. They just want to have whatever is locked up…bad enough. Even the most encrypted stuff ever. It might take some time, but they will get in.

The question you should be asking is who might be the dishonest people in this instance, and what do they want? If they get the information, do they intend to manipulate it? Deny it? Is there anyway to verify it?

Is there a way to check the conclusions of The Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity via actual information, verifiable analysis, non-partisan review?

Yes there is. Then we get down to the fight over whose news is fake and whose is not. Get your ducks all set up, in row if possible.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 how much for a 50 copy license of winzip?

Exactly. The issue isn’t that without a backdoor the “bad guys” (or “good guys”) will never gain access. It’s just that decent encryption means that the time taken to access the data will either deter the “bad guys” from even trying, or at least allow time to react to a breach before they can access whatever confidential information was taken.

A know backdoor reduces the time taken to access the data from “months, maybe centuries depending on the type of encryption and hardware the bad guys have” to “instantly the moment the data is stolen”. It’s the same concept as a physical lock – the lock isn’t there as a magical barrier that will keep things safe for eternity, it’s there to delay crooks as long as possible before they’re spotted, and hopefully deter them from trying to get in to begin with.

Potentially giving the “bad guys” instant access through a backdoor because “well, they’d just get in anyway” is the height of stupidity.

Anonymous Coward says:

"This all appears to be driven by Trump’s belief that the only way he could have possibly lost the popular vote is due to fraud…"

Just like the whole "Russiagate" narrative appears to be driven by Team Hillary’s belief that the only way she could have lost to Trump was due to Russian interference.

We’re very lucky nowadays to have so much political hackery to choose from.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

Wow. I didn’t expect so many replies. Even though this reply is to the first reply, please accept this as my response to all.

Firstly, know that I’m not a Trump supporter. I merely seek to call BS on what appears to me to be a highly self-serving smear campaign being waged by both parties against Trump. Also, I think this has more to do with a non-establishment-approved (i.e., non DNC/RNC approved) candidate winning than anything to do with Trump in particular. Even if it was some other non-approved person, I believe they’d be doing the same thing – as they want someone who’s in their pocket, someone they can control.

The main problem I have with the Russiagate narrative is that…

  1. it serves to distract attention away from way more relevant issues.
  2. nation-states do their best to affect the outcomes of other nations elections all the time (esp. true of the United States) so all the fuss this time seems a bit suspect to me.
  3. it seems somewhat suicidal to unnecessarily escalate tensions between two trigger-fingered, nuclear-armed nations.

Also, what they’re doing isn’t new…

The Increasingly Unhinged Russia Rhetoric Comes From a Long-Standing U.S. Playbook

And why they’re probably doing it is fairly obvious…

Excerpts from: How Russia Became “Our Adversary” Again

The Russiagate narrative has proved irresistible to these actors for three basic reasons:

  1. They have naturally wanted to delegitimize the early Trump administration for standard partisan reasons.
  2. Highly placed NATO-expansionist New Cold Warriors in both major parties (e.g., John McCain) and the media have wanted to keep the heat on Moscow.
  3. The Russian interference allegation has been made in part to help the DNC and the neoliberal Democratic Party establishment avoid responsibility for blowing the 2016 election.

So feel free to bash the terrible Drumpster to your heart’s content, just be as skeptical of his adversaries narrative as you are of him. As neither are working towards our best interests.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

Just ignore them.

They are ALL on team Hillary while they simultaneously bitch about people using the word “team” or alluding to the term anywhere.

I agree with most of what you have stated but I have a few additional items to toss on the pile.

#1. The constant outrage at Trump is tiresome. By the time Trump does something that really does require “bi-partisan” action one one is going to want to work with the toxic leftists just by habit. With all these leftists spinning out of control every time trump says something stupid, no wonder every is sick of the shit.

#2. Trump or any administration has not business asking for voter records, that is a state problem, though I bet the same fuckwits that would agree this time around sure did support federal action against states that tried to implement voter ID laws.

The vast majority of everyone is a hypocrite up in here.

Stephen T. Stone (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

I bet the same fuckwits that would agree this time around sure did support federal action against states that tried to implement voter ID laws.

Gee, it’s almost as if voter ID laws routinely target the disadvantaged and require some sort of oversight to make sure they do not disenfranchise so many people that the voting rolls in certain states skew in favor of one party’s particular “Southern strategy” of winning the White vote.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:4 Re:

Jeepers! You guys. I’ll just say, Wow – again. So many replies. So, again I’ll just reply to the first reply in an attempt to respond to the general theme of all your replies.

"Russian trolls"

Labeling those you disagree with as agents of Russia so as to dismiss the content of what they say represents a very dark chapter in our nations history. I highly encourage you all to read up on the life and times of Joseph McCarthy. It makes me sad to see posters at TD doing this. I realize that there actually are Russian operatives attempting to manipulate our discourse in their own best interests. But they’re not alone in that pursuit. There are all sorts of vested interests doing the same. We all need to maintain a high degree of skepticism and use our critical reasoning when evaluating information (esp. out of the corporate media).

"…resembling an actual argument."

I’m no academic. But I stand by both the structure and content of what I wrote. Perhaps you’d like to discuss or attempt to refute a specific aspect of my argument rather than simply dismissing it out of hand in it’s entirety?

"Yours reads like a "best of" list of WND article titles."

Ha! I had to look up "WND". I take it by the context of this thread and that it was the first search result that you mean, "WorldNetDaily" described as a politically conservative American news and opinion website and online news aggregator.

I cited my sources. So if you wanted to call into question the source of the information, you could have easily done it. That you instead reference WND seems intellectually dishonest to me. Not to mention, you make a fool of yourself attempting to label either author of the two articles to which I linked as conservatives (as they’re both exactly the opposite).


After reading your replies, I wasn’t sure if I used that term right so I went and looked it up. I found many definitions; all slightly different. I meant it to mean someone who is overly sensitive to challenges to their opinion (vs "weak and unwilling to fight back"). But broadly, it was my feeble attempt at humor. I didn’t realize it would actually act as a trigger word in the way it did. I thought that aspect was at least interesting. But, I promise not to use it here at TD as my intent is not to cause conflict but to discuss issues.

"However, when challenged, you pull that word out and retreat."

Actually, I responded in detail to the many of the replies. If there’s a specific item you’d like me to respond to, please let me know.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Re:


I love it when I see that word. It implies that your opponent is weak and unwilling to fight back.

However, when challenged, you pull that word out and retreat.

That’s called "deflection" – it’s Trump’s favorite technique, although at his age, it can probably be attributed to dementia, rather than skill.

Stephen T. Stone (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

Nothing in your comment really gets at the issue of voter fraud, you know. Trump claimed that millions of fradulent votes were cast in the 2016 election; this “voting rights” commission was formed explicitly to investigate that claim (and implicitly to scare people into giving up their voting rights voluntarily). But there is no proof that in-person voter fraud tipped the popular vote for Clinton—or that it happened anywhere near the scale that Trump suggests. (And of the numbered-in-the-single-digits stories I heard about people being arrested for voter fraud last year, they all involved Trump supporters.)

Bash the Russia narrative to your heart’s content, just stick to the actual goddamned subject at hand next time.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

"Nothing in your comment really gets at the issue of voter fraud…"

You’re very observant. It does not.

So on that topic…

Specifically, I think Trump’s folks are just trying to appear to address the issue at all. But it’s such a ham-fisted attempt, I can’t imagine they were all that serious about doing anything.

Generally, I think efforts to detect/prevent voter fraud are a worthwhile pursuit. However, there are much more significant problems with our political process that require much greater attention. Especially the legalized bribery that is Citizens United/Revolving Door politics and how two private corporations (i.e., the DNC and RNC) serve as gatekeepers to which candidates we have to choose from in the first place.

"Bash the Russia narrative to your heart’s content,…"

Will do (and I encourage you to do the same). :^)

"…just stick to the actual goddamned subject at hand next time."

Now, Now. Language.

My gosh-darned subject was to call attention to the political hackery phenomena of blaming-something-other-than-was-likely-the-cause for one’s own failure – which can also be interpreted as a topic of this article (i.e., in addition to voter fraud). My detailed response in terms of "Russiagate" was because that’s the topic to which I took the replies to my comment to be responding.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:4 Re:

Although I agree with you both that the articles main subject is voter fraud, it clearly has additional subjects. The focus of my post was on one of those additional subjects (i.e., to call attention to the political hackery phenomena of blaming-something-other-than-was-likely-the-cause for one’s own failure – which can also be interpreted as a topic of this article (i.e., in addition to voter fraud)).

Specifically, when Bode writes, “This all appears to be driven by Trump’s belief that the only way he could have possibly lost the popular vote is due to fraud…”, he touches on this subject and the focus of my original comment.

That’s as clear as I can be.

Thad (user link) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

Not to mention that the "3 million illegals voted for Clinton" narrative makes no sense.

It implies that there was a conspiracy so vast that it included nearly 1 out of every 100 people in America, so effective that not one single one of those 3 million people has actually come forward with any evidence that it happened, and so incompetent that nobody thought maybe they should try illegally voting in some swing states.

Wendy Cockcroft (user link) says:

Re: Re: Re:

You get over it, Trumpkin. She lost because the Electoral College handed the country to Trump. For reasons I can’t fathom, nobody on either side of the aisle is having a cow about this.

RE: Russiagate, my take is that dirt or not, Hillary has been subject to mad smear campaigns for decades and since partisanship runs so deep in America she could stomp a kitten to death on live TV and Dems would still vote for her on the grounds that $GOP_Candidate is worse. Basically, I doubt that the “dirt” uncovered by the Russians had that much of an effect on the election.

Should the Russians have interfered in the election? Pot, meet kettle. As AC @ 13 Jul 2017 @ 1:43pm notes, due to political hackery we’re being distracted from the bigger issues.

Should Team Trump have engaged in research opposition with a hostile foreign power? No. Is it treason? Not per the letter of the law. Is it Very Naughty? Yes. Is it acceptable? On the Trump side, “Meh!”

Conclusion: political hackery and partisanship has apparently inoculated Americans from being unduly influence by foreign powers since they’re much too busy fighting each other to pay much attention to it.

Whether I’m right or wrong depends on how much you think Putin/US Voters is like B5’s Bester/Garibaldi where Bester sends subliminal messages to enhance Garibaldi’s natural rebelliousness and distrust of authority, etc. To be fair the GOP had been doing it for decades so I doubt that the Russian efforts made that much of a difference.

John Richardson says:

3 minutes of google searching

Claims of no evidence ring like fake intellectuals assuming they know all and do not do any research on their own. See all footnotes at the bottom of this write up. Also look for yourself, there are plenty of studies documenting voter fraud. Embarrassing work fellas. Yes, there is even a Harvard one (you know its real if its Harvard :p), and then there is all the anecdotal evidence I hear around me in every city.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: 3 minutes of google searching

Please take a few minutes to actually read the “source” that you have provided. That was a page or two of complete drivel.

For future reference when evaluating sources remember the acronym CRAP

Point of View/Propaganda

To be an effective source it must do well in all 4 areas…
yours scores high in Currency, and Relevance, but does abysmally in Accuracy and Propaganda. Making it completely worthless.

Anonymous Coward says:

If they were really interested in clean elections – wouldn’t they be talking about the “commercial in confidence” unauditable black box voting machines that we have no reason to trust?

Data is power. Lists of people are used to create smaller lists of targets.

There are many other risks apart from privacy and voter suppression.

Personal data is like crack to authoritarians. Don’t give them anything. Ever.

JoeDetroit (profile) says:

The Florida Model

This is nothing but a tripling down of the Florida Model. You know, the one that gave Florida to Bush W back in 2000. Scrub the voter registration lists so people show up & can’t vote. Make sure the lines are hours long so people can’t vote.

This is not theoretical, it happened. I say tripling down because many states have already doubled down on the Florida Model. They just want to take it nation wide.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Republican solutions to registration fraud often happens to coincide with disenfranchising minorities and other blocs who regularly vote Democratic. Anything that helps support the need for such things is something they’ll want to get, and they haven’t exactly been dissuaded by constant failure with their other obsessions. Electoral fraud, on the other hand, is not only something likely perpetrated by them at some point, but does not seem to have solutions that give them an unfair advantage like gerrymandering and voter ID tend to.

Phillip (profile) says:


To be fair, having used it for quite a while it is secure. The problem is, for whatever reason, the DoD certs are not published like verisign, symantec, etc. and others built into the browsers. As most States likely never use the DoD systems they haven’t had to deal with it. DoD publishes the root cert bundles as a manual process to validate sites like SAFE as being secure, but the panel did not provide the root certificates nor any instructions related to their usage to validate the security of the site or others like it in question.

John85851 (profile) says:

Maybe Trump doesn't want to be president

It’s my theory that Trump doesn’t want to be president because he realized early on that being president isn’t the same as being a CEO and there are too many critics.

First, he tried trolling the people of the US by saying he’d build a border wall to keep Mexicans out… with no concrete plans.

Then he fills his cabinet with other CEO’s and large-donors who have no political or diplomatic experience. Sure, the CEO of Exxon will definitely be a good representative of the US abroad. And sure, a brain surgeon will make an excellent Secretary of Housing and Urban Development.

Then he sends out crazy Twitter tweets that should be far beneath the behavior of a US president. Why does the president of the United States need to get into a Twitter war with CNN anyway? And what’s a “covfefe”?

Then when he’s still not kicked out of office, he demands a recount of all the votes. Sure, he tells everyone that it’s to look for fraud, but maybe it’s to see if Hillary actually got enough votes to win.
That way, he wouldn’t have to quit being the president and he could complain about the “unfair recount” that he himself ordered.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Maybe Trump doesn't want to be president

I thought he was trying to get canned during the primaries, to be honest. I don’t think he really wanted the job, just the prestige. But, no matter how much he acted like a lunatic, insulted veterans, the disabled, women, he just kept gaining popularity. Any of those things would have sunk a previous campaign – I think most others would have been kicked out the second they mocked POWs as Trump did – but it kept going…

Now he’s in there, he’s clearly out of his depth. He doesn’t understand diplomacy, doesn’t understand that he can’t just order something done. He’s a spoilt brat who’s spent most of his time surrounded by yes men, now faced with real criticism for the first time. He’s trying to install the yes men in every position he can, but he’s just ended up with incompetents and empty positions. He’s trying to run the country like one of his businesses, but not realising that he can’t declare bankruptcy and run, can’t screw suppliers and can’t coast on a brand name and family fortune like he has in the business world.

I wouldn’t be surprised if he bails before the end of the first term. I just hope his supporters realise why rather than ranting about some conspiracy. Alas, I don’t think they will.

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