Texas attorney general exposes millions of voters’ Social Security numbers

By Stephen C. Webster
Thursday, April 26, 2012 16:29 EDT
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A thief accesses a Social Security card. Photo: Shutterstock.com, all rights reserved.
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The office of Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott mistakenly gave attorneys access to millions of Social Security numbers in a case against the state’s voter ID law, officials admitted Wednesday.

The numbers were included with a voter database the state was ordered to turn over to plaintiff attorneys. Abbott’s office reportedly said that only the last four digits were supposed to be visible, but they were later informed that was not the case, and that up to 6.5 million Social Security numbers were compromised.

Abbott’s office insists the data was not exposed to the public. He reportedly dispatched police officers to collect copies of the voter database, which was contained on encrypted hard drives sent to lawyers in Boston, Washington and New York.

Texas Democratic Party spokeswoman Rebecca Acuna told The San Antonio Express News that Abbott’s mistake would not have happened if he’d “spent as much time protecting Texans as he does trying to disenfranchise them.”

Her message is approximately the same as the Obama administration’s. The Department of Justice (DOJ) announced last month that it would block the Texas voter ID law, which requires voters to present a photo identification before casting a ballot.

The administration warned that voter ID laws like Texas’s threaten to disenfranchise thousands of minority voters across the nation. And in Texas, that situation is especially dire, with many of those same voters already facing decreased representation thanks to Republicans’ redistricting schemes.

Voter ID laws have been shopped in numerous states by the American Legislative Exchange Council, a conservative lobbying group funded by wealthy interests, which purports to write bills for lawmakers.

Republicans favor ID laws because they fear an orchestrated campaign of voter fraud could tip elections against them. There is, however, no evidence of widespread voter fraud occurring anywhere in the U.S.

Instead, ID laws have been empirically demonstrated to drive down the number of votes (PDF) cast for Democrats by minorities, students, the poor and the elderly, who are less likely to carry a photo ID.

Texas is one of a number of historically discriminatory jurisdictions required by the Voting Rights Act of 1965 to obtain preclearance before changing their voting laws. Because of that, any changes to its election laws must be approved as non-discriminatory by the DOJ before they’re implemented state-wide.

Photo: Shutterstock.com, all rights reserved.

Stephen C. Webster
Stephen C. Webster
Stephen C. Webster is the senior editor of Raw Story, and is based out of Austin, Texas. He previously worked as the associate editor of The Lone Star Iconoclast in Crawford, Texas, where he covered state politics and the peace movement’s resurgence at the start of the Iraq war. Webster has also contributed to publications such as True/Slant, Austin Monthly, The Dallas Business Journal, The Dallas Morning News, Fort Worth Weekly, The News Connection and others. Follow him on Twitter at @StephenCWebster.
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