BOISE – A court hearing was canceled Thursday and the Idaho Democratic Party announced that it had entered into settlement talks with the state in its lawsuit seeking to bar Secretary of State Lawerence Denney from releasing Idaho voter information to a Trump commission.
If the talks don’t “arrive at a mutually beneficial conclusion, then the hearing would be back on,” said party spokesman Dean Ferguson. He added that neither side can comment on the talks while they’re underway. “They are talking in good faith,” Ferguson said, and the party has been assured that the Idaho voter data won’t be released while the talks are underway.
Scott Graf, spokesman for the Idaho attorney general’s office, said the office has no comment on the pending litigation.
Sam Dotters-Katz, attorney for the Idaho Democratic Party, said Thursday that he couldn’t comment on the settlement talks, but said, “We expect to have a settlement before the end of the day tomorrow.”
The party’s lawsuit, filed Tuesday in 4th District Court in Ada County, charged that releasing the detailed voter information that President Trump’s election integrity commission demanded would violate several Idaho state laws, including provisions of the Idaho Public Records Act and statutes preventing commercial use of voter data. Since the Trump commission told states it planned to make the data publicly available on the internet, the lawsuit said, “Once the list is made public, the information will of course be used in an impermissible manner.”
Citing a state law prohibiting the use of Idaho’s voter roll for commercial uses, the lawsuit said, “Idaho recognized the harm that is caused by providing the information contained in the list to those who would use it to endlessly harass Idahoans with commercial solicitation. … With the verified public information contained in the list, hackers and identity thieves will have more data points to exploit in seeking to victimize Idahoans.”
The lawsuit also raised questions about the security of the methods by which the commission wants states to transmit the data.
Denney’s initial response to the request said he was still studying it, in consultation with the attorney general’s office, but that he was treating it as a public records request. Under the Idaho Public Records Act, the state’s voter roll, including such basic information as names, addresses and in which elections the voter participated, is a public record, and it’s routinely requested each election cycle by political parties and candidates, who pay a fee to obtain it.
Other data the commission requested, including information about felony convictions and partial Social Security numbers, isn’t part of Idaho’s roll.
The Democrats’ lawsuit argued that the Trump commission doesn’t fit the Idaho Public Records Act’s definition of a “person,” so it cannot lawfully be given Idaho public records under the law. The law defines a person as “any natural person, corporation, partnership, firm, association, joint venture, state or local agency or any other recognized legal entity.”
Trump’s commission was created by an executive order.
“The federal government or an agency or commission within the federal government is not listed within the definition of ‘person,’ ” the lawsuit states. “Based on the rules of statutory interpretation, the inclusion of state and local government in the definition of a ‘person’ and the exclusion of federal government should be deemed a purposeful exclusion.”
The Trump commission already had put its requests for voter data on hold due to a separate federal lawsuit.
Denney’s office reported that it’s been besieged with phone calls and emails from Idahoans opposing the release of the voter data to the Trump commission, which wants to study possible voter fraud in the 2016 presidential election.
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