Trump’s voter information grab

In a supposed attempt to uncover voter fraud, the Trump administration has demanded that states turn over vast amounts of information about voters. Its infamous letter calls on the state governments to turn over “if publicly available under the laws of your state, the full first and last names of all registrants, middle names or initials if available, addresses, dates of birth, political party (if recorded in your state), last four digits of social security number if available, voter history (elections voted in) from 2006 onward, active/inactive status, cancelled status, information regarding any felony convictions, information regarding voter registration in another state, information regarding military status, and overseas citizen information.” (emphasis added)

It further states: “Please be aware that any documents that are submitted to the full Commission will also be made available to the public.” Yes, that’s right; the commission intends to make the last four digits of every voter’s Social Security number public, to the extent that it can!

States are instructed to submit documents to, which is “a secure FTP site the
federal government uses for transferring large data files.” On an account without a password, apparently. I tried logging into that site and got a timeout, so it may be down now. (Some analyses say that that’s an email address and talk about its lack of security, but as far as I can see, that’s a misunderstanding. The letter clearly is talking about SFTP and not email.)

Hillary Clinton’s email server was a model of tight security by comparison. Even if the upload directory is write-only, it leaves the door wide open for forged documents. A couple of years ago, St. Mary’s Bank used the last four digits of depositors’ SSNs as their default online banking password. Trump demands with mock righteousness to know “what we have to hide.” He knows what we need to hide and why. He just doesn’t care as long as he can grab one more way to exercise personal power over us.

Is it necessary to explain why publishing part of people’s Social Security numbers is a horrible idea? Publishing four digits reduces the search space from 1,000,000,000 possibilities (or whatever subset are legal SSNs) to 100,000 possibilities. It makes guessing vastly easier. Also, there are utter idiots, such as the management of St. Mary’s Bank in New Hampshire, who think that the last four digits of an account holder’s SSN constitute a secure password.

Providing the other information would require correlating information from multiple data sources. I’m pretty sure that no voting records in the United States include felony convictions, and probably none have Social Security numbers. Correlating multiple, independently created data sets is a notoriously error-prone process. Names aren’t unique identifiers. Addresses change. The information sent to Trump and then published to the world would be riddled with errors, almost certainly including false records of convictions. That could ruin people’s lives.

We know how you harass people you don’t like, Mr. Trump. What we have to hide from you is our personal lives, which are none of your god damned business.

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