ACLU-NH sues to bar NH voter data from Trump commission | New Hampshire
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ACLU-NH sues to bar NH voter data from Trump commission

New Hampshire Union Leader

July 06. 2017 1:17PM

The American Civil Liberties Union of New Hampshire has filed a lawsuit to block Secretary of State Bill Gardner from sending voter information to President Donald Trump's anti-fraud election commission.

The ACLU-NH argues that state law makes it illegal for Gardner to disclose the data.

State Rep. Neal Kurk, R-NH, a privacy advocate in the New Hampshire Legislature, is named as a plaintiff in the suit, "Kurk vs. Gardner," filed in Hillsborough County Superior Court-South. Sen. Betty Lasky, D-Nashua, is another plaintiff.

Kurk maintains the Legislature intended to enact strict restrictions on the sharing of the voter data to protect privacy.

"These protections would be rendered meaningless by the transfer of this data to the commission, which has established no security protocols and intends to post everything it receives online," Kurk said in a statement.

Gardner, who sits on Trump's "election integrity" commission, contends that he has the authority to send the information to the commission. He said the data in question he plans to send is public information — a voter's name, address, party affiliation, and voting history.

New Hampshire's attorney general is reviewing state law with respect to the information requested from the commission.

Deputy Secretary of State David Scanlan said the legal challenge does not change any of the secretary of state's positions on the data.

"The ACLU-NH lawsuit does not come as a surprise," he replied.

Gov. Chris Sununu, R-Newfields, has defended Gardner and the sharing of the data with the commission, which holds its first meeting July 19. Several states have responded that they will not, or cannot under their laws, provide the voter information to the commission. Others are giving partial information.

Ben Vistadt, a spokesman for the governor, said Sununu's position has not changed. "Gov. Sununu remains firm in his position that only publicly available information will be released, and that absolutely no voter's private information will be disclosed," he said.

Critics have raised concerns that the commission would make all of the information public, and in a massive, national database.

The lawsuit for preliminary injunction, declaratory judgment and injunctive relief argues that Gardner would be acting outside the privacy protections of the state statute.

The lawsuit filing can be viewed below:

"There is no statutory authority to, as the Secretary of State plans to do, simply transmit this information to the commission without following RSA 654:31 (II)-(III)'s strict and binding parameters," the suit reads.

The lawsuit asks for an expedited hearing, noting that the commission's letter to the state asked for the information by July 14. While Gardner considers sending names, addresses, party affiliation, and voting history, the letter from the commission also requested the last four digits of Social Security numbers and date of birth of registered voters, including felony convictions, military status, overseas voting, and registration in another state.

There are approximately 984,000 voters on New Hampshire rolls, and 755,000 cast ballots in 2016.

Lasky maintains that the secretary of state has no authority to give the information. She cited the state law that he can provide it to political parties, political committees, and candidates. Gilles Bissonnette, ACLU-NH's legal director, said Gardner must treat the presidential commission no differently than a regular member of the public seeking the voter information.

Kurk worked on the voter list statutes in question, which the ACLU-NH says were designed to limit mass dissemination of the voter information and ensure it is used for political purposes, not commercial gain.

The lawsuit cites the law that requesters of the voter file may view the public checklist on the statewide centralized voter registration database at the state records and archives center, while noting a prohibition on the "printing, duplicating, transmitting, or altering the data."

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