Today Protect Democracy filed a motion for preliminary injunction against the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity and the Office of Management and Budget, asking the court to order the Commission to halt its collection of broad swaths of sensitive voter information, and destroy any data they have already collected, until they comply with the law.
Protect Democracy filed a complaint in September against the Commission and OMB challenging the Commission’s ongoing efforts to collect sensitive voter information from state election officials around the country. The motion filed today asks the court to take immediate action to ensure that Protect Democracy and other members of the public have the opportunity—guaranteed by federal law—to assess and respond to the Commission’s plans for the data before the collection takes place. This is especially critical because the mere fact of the data collection has immediate consequences for the democratic process—it has caused thousands of voters to de-register and presents an ongoing data security threat.
The lawsuit argues that the data requests violate the Paperwork Reduction Act. That statute governs federal agencies when they seek to collect information from the public, including from state officials. The statute imposes a framework for ensuring that the government explains its need for the requested data, minimizes unnecessary burdens, establishes adequate structures for maintaining data securely, protects privacy interests, and gives the public a meaningful opportunity to comment in advance of the government’s data collection. That transparency and opportunity for public comment offer precisely the kind of safeguards that would ordinarily protect against the harms inherent in the sweeping data collection the Commission has undertaken. Here, however, the Commission simply ignored the statute.
Our complaint seeks to bring the Commission back within the bounds of the law. In July, Protect Democracy, joined by the Brennan Center for Justice, asked OMB to take action to remedy the Commission’s unlawful data collection, and urged state officials around the country to withhold data in light of that violation.
WilmerHale is serving as co-counsel with Protect Democracy in this lawsuit, which is filed in the federal district court for the District of Columbia.