The White House on Thursday made public a trove of emails it received from voters offering comment on its Election Integrity Commission. The commission drew widespread criticism when it emerged into public view by asking for personal information, including addresses, partial social security numbers and party affiliation, on every voter in the country.
It further outraged voters by planning to post that information publicly.
Voters directed that outrage toward the Trump White House and the voter commission, often using profanity-laced language in the 112 pages of emails released this week.
“You will open up the entire voting population to a massive amount of fraud if this data is in any way released,” one voter wrote.
“Many people will get their identity stolen, which will harm the economy,” wrote another.
“I respectfully request, as an American-born citizen legally eligible to vote for two decades, that you leave my voter data and history alone, do not publish it, and do nothing with it,” said another.
Unfortunately for these voters and others who wrote in, the Trump administration did not redact any of their personal information from the emails before releasing them to the public. In some cases, the emails contain not only names, but email addresses, home addresses, phone numbers and places of employment of people worried about such information being made available to the public.
The Washington Post is not publishing any of this information because in most cases it does not appear that the individuals were aware their comments would be shared by the White House. The emails were sent to the Election Integrity Commissions' email address that the administration asked U.S. secretaries of state to send data files to.
“This request is very concerning,” wrote one. “The federal government is attempting to get the name, address, birth date, political party, and social security number of every voter in the country.” That email, published by the White House, contained the sender's name and home address.
“DO NOT RELEASE ANY OF MY VOTER DATA PERIOD,” wrote one voter whose name and email address was published by the White House.
“Beefed up the security on this email address yet?” asked another voter whose name and email address were also published by the White House.
“The request for private voter information is offensive,” wrote one voter whose name, home address and email address were published by the White House.
“I removed my name from voter rolls. And I'm a Republican!” wrote one voter whose name was published by the White House.
Federal agencies often solicit and release public comments on proposed legislation. Regulations.gov, the federal government's clearing house for public comments, includes a detailed set of guidelines explaining how to submit comments, what type of personal information is collected and how that information may be used.
“Some agencies may require that you include personal information, such as your name and email address, on the comment form,” the website explains. The Securities and Exchange Commission, for instance, warns commenters to “submit only information that you wish to make available publicly.”
Similarly, the Federal Trade Commission tells commenters that “published comments include the commenter’s last name and state/country as well as the entire text of the comment. Please do not include any sensitive or confidential information.”
The White House does not appear to have issued any such public guidelines or warnings before many of the emails were sent.
"These are public comments, similar to individuals appearing before commission to make comments and providing name before making comments," said Marc Lotter, Press Secretary to Mike Pence, in an email. "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."
The Federal Register notice soliciting comments was published on July 5. The White House page was published on July 13.
Approximately half of the emails published by the White House were dated prior to July 5.
This story has been updated.