Legislators, Citizens, and Parents of Minors File Federal Lawsuit against Minnesota Secretary of State Steve Simon for Sharing Sensitive Personal Private Information
by Elizabeth Dallam Ayoub October 12, 2023
Private, personal data should be just that: private and personal. One hears the terms “cyber breaches” and security breaches” regularly now, as 694 data breaches in just 2023 alone have been documented by a study from the Information Technology Center at the University of Delaware. Major Security Breaches in 2023 | Secure UD Threat Alerts (udel.edu)
When a private company releases this data, it is called a breach. But when a state government sanctions it, it’s called legal? ERIC Sacrifices Teens’ Privacy on the Altar of ‘Election Reform’ (mifairelections.org)
The Minnesota Secretary of State will soon have to answer that question, perhaps under oath.
Today, legislators and citizens filed a Federal lawsuit against the Minnesota Secretary of State for sharing the private, personal data of Minnesota residents. Minnesota residents who registered to vote at the secretary of state had their private information disclosed to the Electronic Registration Information Center (ERIC). In the membership agreement that Minnesota signed with ERIC, the state of Minnesota agreed to disclose this personal data.
When the Minnesota Secretary of State took his oath of office, he swore and affirmed that he would support the Constitution of the United States and the Constitution of the State of Minnesota to the best of his judgment and ability. One can hope that discharging his duty meant obeying the laws of the United States of America and the laws of the State of Minnesota.
The Federal Driver’s Privacy Protection Act (DPPA), 18 U.S.C. §2721 restricts the disclosure and use of the highly sensitive personal information in state motor vehicle agency databases.
When the Minnesota legislature authorized the Minnesota Department of State to enter into an agreement to share data from the motor vehicle agency, it was very specific about the permissible use of private driver data.
Legislators and citizens who filed this lawsuit claim that the Minnesota Secretary of State violated these laws because, when ERIC receives this data, ERIC shares this information with other non-governmental parties.
Attorney Erick Kaardal, a partner of Mohrman, Kaardal & Erickson, P.A. represents the plaintiffs in this lawsuit, and brings to the table 61 election-integrity successes, including 2 U.S. Supreme Court victories. Attorney Kaardal states: “The DPPA makes it clear that voter roll information has to be protected. Secretary of State Steve Simon is breaking the law. He is exposing the private, personally identifying information of residents and their children to identity theft.”
Nine other states have withdrawn from membership in ERIC, the most recent being Texas.
Wes Allen, Secretary of State of Alabama, stated, “I have heard repeatedly as I travelled through the state for the last year and a half that people want us out of ERIC. They don’t want their personal information or the personal information of their children to be sent to this out-of-state group. I promised I would end our participation and that is what I am taking these steps to do.” Alabama withdraws from ERIC (mifairelections.org)
Today, with the Minnesota claim, it appears that counter-lawfare might have to be used to force other states to withdraw from ERIC.
Meanwhile, back on the home front in Michigan, a state that signed a membership with ERIC in 2019, one can read how Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson stated that she helped “lead the effort to found ERIC in the summer of 2012.” Call to Action: ERIC slips non-citizens onto voter rolls (mifairelections.org)
Across the proverbial hall in Lansing, Michigan’s Attorney General Dana Nessel this past week reached a settlement for a data breach of personal, private data by Blackbaud, a private company. Nessel stated: “this financial settlement will remind Blackbaud that prioritizing profits over customer data security can be a costly way to do business.”
Perhaps as the lawsuit against the Minnesota Secretary of State winds its way through the court system Michigan’s Secretary of State will be reminded that handing over the personal, private data of children and residents “can be a costly way to do business?”
Author Elizabeth Dallam Ayoub serves as MFE’s director of communications. She started her career working for an international company, transitioned into teaching French and Latin while her children were young, and then became a Michigan attorney.
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