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In late June, the vice chair of President Donald Trump‘s Advisory Commission on Election Integrity sent a letter to all 50 secretaries of state requesting voter data.

More specifically, the request is for the name, address, date of birth, party affiliation, last four social security number digits, voting history back to 2006, felony convictions, overseas citizen information, military status, and so on, of every voter in their state. This trove of information is due by July 14.

The creation of the election integrity commission stems from Trump’s belief that there is a high level of voter fraud. His claim has been proven untrue, but the president and others stick to their talking points.

With that type and amount of information, the federal government can and will build a national database of individuals.

This is a problem because it centralizes information the government has about its citizens, which will enable officials to easily access data about any of us, at any time, for whatever reason.

There is a reason that the nation’s founders saw it important to have a separation of powers, not only among the federal branches of government but also between federal and state governments.

Here are a few concerns:

First, this request for voter information smells like the very old ways of the master to oppress those without power.

Branding and tagging in the United States, and other places, has historically been used to identify, count and track people the government deemed inferior human beings.

During the Holocaust, Jews in concentration camps immediately received identification numbers that were sewn to their prison uniforms. As the prisoners died, there was no way to identify them, so camp operators began tattooing the prisoners.

In the United States, masters branded and tagged their slaves as a way to show ownership. Trump’s request may seem more innocent than branding and tagging. However, an attempt to give the federal government access to the personal information of individuals not deemed dangerous or a threat to this country likens itself to a time when this country thought it important to keep track of its property.

Second, a national registry is highly vulnerable to hackers and cybercriminals. On more than one occasion, government computer systems have been compromised.

In 2015, the U.S. Office of Personnel Management announced a massive breach that compromised the personal data of over 21 million people. The federal government offered identity theft protection, but we still don’t know how many were actually victimized and to what extent.

Lastly, this attempt to create a national voter database can further enable voter suppression. Since the late 19th century, officials have employed various tactics to disenfranchise certain voters.

Back then, literacy tests were a primary method. Today, methods are covert, such as voter ID laws and denying ex-felons the right to vote.

The data request is a natural offshoot of past tactics. Knowing enough about a person and their likely policy positions enables targeted voter suppression.

Trump is the first, but unlikely the last, to attempt to circumvent laws in this way to obtain information that would be serve his interests and the interests of his party.

So far, at least 15 states have refused to provide the information out of concern that the Trump administration has no way of keeping the information secure. However, keeping this information secure from creepy hackers might not be the only risk.


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