U.S. tells Arkansas to delete files on voter data

Arkansas voter data provided to President Donald Trump's voter-fraud commission is headed for the trash days after it was submitted.

According to an email exchange obtained Wednesday under the state Freedom of Information Act, Andrew Kossack, associate counsel for Vice President Mike Pence, asked officials in Secretary of State Mark Martin's office to delete from a federal server the voter data it submitted.

However, state officials could not access the server.

"We were unable to access the SAFE site again in order to pull down the file, pursuant to your request," wrote Peyton Murphy, assistant director of the state elections division, in a Monday email. "We understand that the file has not yet been accessed, but that it will expire 14 days from the time of the upload."

Kossack replied that the federal site would delete the file.

"I'll be back in touch with next steps," he continued. "Again, thank you for your submission, and my apologies for this inconvenience."

Arkansas submitted its data on July 5. It was the first state to submit data to the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity.

The SAFE site -- also known as the Safe Access File Exchange -- is at the heart of a lawsuit filed by the Washington, D.C.-based Electronic Privacy Information Center. The file exchange is run within the Department of Defense.

Kossack referred to the lawsuit in his email.

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The Electronic Privacy Information Center contends that the commission failed to conduct a privacy information assessment -- required under the E-Government Act of 2002 -- before collecting the data using the Department of Defense system.

"The 'SAFE' URL, recommend by the Commission for the submission of voter data, leads election officials to a non-secure site," according to the Electronic Privacy Information Center.

"Regarding this website, Google Chrome states: 'Your connection is not private. Attackers may be trying to steal your information from [the site proposed by the Commission] (for example, passwords, messages, or credit cards).'"

In the initial request for information, dated June 28, Kris Kobach, vice chairman of the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity, noted that the commission wanted Arkansas data -- "if publicly available under the laws of your state" -- including names, addresses, dates of birth, political party affiliations, the last four digits of Social Security numbers "if available," voter history, voter status, felony convictions, information regarding voter registration in another state, military status and overseas citizen information.

The information submitted to the file exchange from Arkansas did not contain Social Security numbers, felony convictions, military status and driver's license numbers. Such information is not publicly available in Arkansas.

However, names, addresses, dates of birth, political party affiliations, voter history since 2008, registration status, email addresses and phone numbers -- were shared. The database does not say for whom someone voted -- only whether they voted.

The same Arkansas voter information that was released to the Trump administration has been provided about 200 times since January 2015 to various entities, Kelly Boyd, chief deputy secretary of state, told legislators and county clerks meeting Wednesday in Eureka Springs.

Those entities include states, organizations, political parties and Arkansas legislators, he told a crowd of about 100 at the Basin Park Hotel.

"We submit information every year to the state cross-check program, and we do that at no charge," Boyd said. "And we did that at no charge for this program."

"To be very clear on this, there was no sensitive information released, no Social Security numbers, no partials, no military data, no felon data, no data that you can't get out of the phone book."

Boyd said the data would reveal some voting information.

"They're going to know whether you voted R or D or O [optional] or N for nonjudicial in the primaries," said Boyd. "It would tell whether you voted E early, A absentee or P at the polls, back to 2008. ...

"I know there's been a lot of angst about that, and I'm sorry. I wish there hadn't been. This information is openly available. There are ways to make it not openly available. I'll work with you if you want to do that."

Gov. Asa Hutchinson told a group of high school students Monday that the state should not have provided any data to the Trump commission.

"I am not a fan of providing any data to the commission in Washington," Hutchinson said in response to a student's question.

"Even though it is publicly available information and anyone can get it -- all you have to do is file a Freedom of Information [Act] request to get the information -- I just don't want to facilitate the providing of that information to a federal database. I don't think that's helpful for us."

The governor spoke as Kossack and Arkansas secretary of state staff members were trading emails about deleting the Arkansas information.

Information for this article was contributed by The Associated Press.

Metro on 07/13/2017