Incompetence or malice? That’s often the question when it comes to Donald Trump’s White House. Thanks to Trump’s inexplicable hang-up on popularity, he’s formed a new commission to look into potential voter fraud. Despite the fact that, you know, he won.
The commission has sent requests to every state asking for the names, party registration, addresses of every voter — among other information, including voters’ last four digits of their social security number. The Trump Administration said once they obtained this information, they would make it available to the public.
Unsurprisingly, this is an unpopular policy. At least 44 states have refused to provide this information. Mississippi Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann even said, when asked “They can go jump in the Gulf of Mexico, and Mississippi is a great State to launch from.” (And this isn’t partisan bickering — Hosemann’s a Republican.)
It wasn’t just the states who objected to this request, but a number of citizens. How do we know? The White House posted all the comments they received from the public on the matter. Unedited. Including full names and clickable email addresses — and in some cases, home addresses and phone numbers.
So, yes — that means that the White House released the personal information of people who objected to the White House releasing personal information.
These are public comments, similar to individuals appearing before commission to make comments and providing name before making comments. The Commission’s Federal Register notice asking for public comments and its website make clear that information ‘including names and contact information’ sent to this email address may be released.
Doxxing, or releasing the personal information of someone, is a common technique of internet trolls. A number of GamerGate critics, including actress Felicia Day have been doxxed. Likewise, a professor at the University of Washington was doxxed in retaliation for organizing a protest when Milo Yiannopoulos gave a lecture at the college.
Once someone has been doxxed, it makes harassment of them much easier. In addition to sending threatening emails, there are examples of real-world harassment. One of the most heinous is the act of Swatting, where harassers call the police claiming that they’re committing a violent crime at an address. Often times, it involves threats of murder — or even claims that multiple murders have already happened. The police send a SWAT team to the address — where, of course, nothing is actually going on. Victims of Swatting have been shot at, had their pets killed, and more.
While there are so far no reports of harassment, releasing this sort of information is dangerous — especially when tied to political statements.
In addition to the danger, the secret ballot has been an essential part of the American system since 1891. Prior to that, voters could be harassed and threatened over their votes. That said, though traditionally important, a secret ballot is not guaranteed by the Constitution.
Another important point is that research has shown that voter fraud in the United States is very, very rare. For example, research shows that in 2016, North Carolina’s rate of voter fraud was 0.00002% — or slightly higher than one vote in five million was fake.
Featured image by Gage Skidmore.