Confessions of a FOIA Denial

April 11, 2022

by Patrice Johnson

Your request for ERIC membership data is denied,” FOIA Coordinator Fracassi wrote. “First, the information being requested contains records that are not subject to disclosure under law, such as the last four of the social security number, driver’s license number, and full date of birth.  MCL 168.509gg.  Accordingly, your request for this information is denied. 

Adam Fracassi, Esq., attorney for Secretary of State Bureau of Elections, Apr. 4, 2022. 

The response above indirectly confirms that Sec. of State Benson’s office is, indeed, sharing restricted voter information, prohibited from disclosure under MCL 168.509gg, with ERIC, the Electronic Registration Information Center. It came in reply to Louis Avallone’s Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request.

For some time now, PIME has sounded the alarm that Michigan’s secretary of state appears to be sharing residents’ legally protected, personal information with the three-employee, 30-state, Soros-linked ERIC organization. In denying Avallone’s FOIA request, Benson’s office inadvertently confirmed our suspicions.

The process began March 11. Louis Avallone, a member of PIME’s ERIC committee, submitted a FOIA request to Michigan’s Bureau of Elections (BOE). “I have some concern,” he wrote, “that the continued presence of duplicate voter ID assignments in Michigan’s QVF may be the result of non-compliance with the voter data sharing requirements of member states participating in ERIC – Electronic Registration Information Center, Inc.”

Michigan’s statewide voter roll database is called the Qualified Voter File. Both the QVF and BOE fall under the purview of the secretary of state’s office. Under the auspices of cleaning the voter rolls, SOS Jocelyn Benson joined Michigan in ERIC shortly after her inauguration in 2019. Then for the first time in history, the number of registered voters in Michigan grew to 102.4% of voting-aged residents—an impossible number. Judicial Watch Study Finds 353 U.S. Counties in 29 States with Voter Registration Rates Exceeding 100%

The problem is far from localized. As of 2020, Judicial Watch reported 69 of Michigan’s 83 counties—that’s 83% of its counties—have more registered voters than eligible voters on the state’s QVF. 

Avallone’s FOIA request went on to say, “I am requesting descriptions of, or portions of the most recent state document(s) that confirm Michigan, as a participating member of ERIC, fully complies with data transfer requirements outlined in ‘Exhibit B’ on page 22 of the ERIC bylaws document (see excerpts below).”

It is important to note, Avallone was seeking to know only the types of data the SOS was providing. He was not asking to see any data. To quote his request, “Fulfillment of this request is not to include any individual voter data present in the file(s) transmitted to ERIC.”

Avallone had submitted so many FOIAs to the bureau that he and staffer Sarah, who typically fulfilled his requests, were on a first-name basis. But to Avallone’s surprise, this FOIA request elicited a response from Adam Fracassi, a high-powered BOE attorney.

“Your request for ERIC membership data is denied,” FOIA Coordinator Fracassi wrote. “First, the information being requested contains records that are not subject to disclosure under law, such as the last four of the social security number, driver’s license number, and full date of birth.  MCL 168.509gg.  Accordingly, your request for this information is denied.” (editor bold)

Avallone was shocked. “The response provided was a perfectly worded confirmation that voter information restricted from disclosure under MCL 168.509gg is in fact being provided to ERIC,” he said.

Put another way, in denying the FOIA request, Fracassi admitted that the SOS is unlawfully providing  personal, legally protected voter information to ERIC. 

Ironically, Fracassi cited Michigan statute MCL 168.509gg as preventing him from sharing the information with Avallone. In fact, the statute applies in even greater measure to the sec. of state. Its explicit wording prevents the SOS’s office from sharing residents’ personal information with anyone, much less with massive, third-party, ERIC interstate database with its questionable roots, cloaked activities, and indeterminate security protocols. 

The law states, “The secretary of state, a designated voter registration agency, or a county, city, township, or village clerk shall not release a copy of that portion of a registration record that contains any of the following:

  (a) The record that a person declined to register to vote.

  (b) The office that received a registered voter’s application.

  (c) A registered voter’s driver’s license or state personal identification card number.

  (d) The month and day of birth of a registered voter.

  (e) The telephone number provided by a registered voter.

  (f) The digitized signature of an elector that is captured or reproduced and transmitted to the qualified voter file by the secretary of state or a county, city, or township clerk under section 509hh or by the secretary of state under section 307 of the Michigan vehicle code, 1949 PA 300, MCL 257.307.

  (2) Except as otherwise provided in this subsection, the last 4 digits of a registered voter’s social security number contained in a registration record are exempt from disclosure under the freedom of information act, 1976 PA 442, MCL 15.231 to 15.246. The last 4 digits of a registered voter’s social security number contained in a registration record may only be used by the secretary of state to verify a registered voter’s data as provided by the help America vote act of 2002 and to verify a registered voter’s status under this act, and shall not be used or released for any other purpose. (editor bold)

Fracassi then ventured into the Land of the Absurd. He wrote, “Second, the remainder of your request is denied because the specifically requested information is exempt from disclosure as the membership agreement prohibits the records from being disclosed.” (editor bold)

To put it succinctly, the SOS double declined Avallone’s request on the basis that ERIC’s bylaws prohibited its members from disclosing what sorts of information they provide to ERIC. In a nutshell, Michigan’s state government admitted they’re letting a third-party, three-employee, Delaware nonprofit corporation dictate how they operate and what they disclose to the public, in defiance of state and the federal law. 

No matter that ERIC was founded in 2012 with funds from the Soros Open Society. No matter that Gateway Pundit describes the so-called nonprofit as a “left wing voter registration drive, disguised as voter roll ‘accuracy’ management” that “only adds voters and rarely, if ever, eliminates any.”

No matter that…

On Jan. 27, Louisiana suspended participation in ERIC in light of “allegations of voter fraud or possible misuse of our voters’ personal  information.” 

–ERIC requires, on pain of expulsion, that the state to contact 95% of the potential, eligible voters on a list that ERIC creates based on undisclosed search criteria and provides to each member state. 

–Jeff Jonas, founder and CEO of an artificial intelligence company, sits on ERIC’s Privacy and Technology Advisory Board, and his company, Senzing, specializes in applications programming interfaces (API).

–The SOS has a history of providing leftist organizations like Rock the Vote API access to the QVF.

–Since joining ERIC, the Office of the Auditor General report found that the BOE failed to clean the voter rolls. In 2020, 69 of Michigan’s 83 counties had more registered voters than eligible voters. Judicial Watch Study Finds 353 U.S. Counties in 29 States with Voter Registration Rates Exceeding 100%

Non-citizens are automatically registered to vote when they transact with the DMV, or that 1,000 people voted with a surrendered license flag in the QVF, and 20,500 people registered without ID in the last 14 days on Election Day, Nov. 2020 (Sen. Ruth Johnson, or noncitizen20220119.mp4).

–Membership in ERIC puts Michigan in violation of federal law. The Federal National Voter Registration Act of 1993 (NVRA) requires states to make reasonable efforts to remove ineligible voters from their rolls. Michigan’s having more registered voters than voting-aged residents is evidence that the Sec. of State and ERIC are failing to comply with NVRA.

–ERIC hasn’t filed an annual report in since 2017, five years ago. 

If nothing else, the power of ERIC to conceal the Michigan secretary of state’s activities behind a Wizard-of-Oz-like curtain of secrecy should send a chill down every reader’s spine.

Published by pureintegrityformichiganelections

Dedicated to restoring election integrity in Michigan.

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