Sanders drops lawsuit against DNC over voter database breach

U.S. Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders. © Aaron P. Bernstein
Bernie Sanders’ campaign team withdrew its lawsuit against the Democratic National Committee Friday. The democratic socialist presidential candidate had claimed that the DNC unfairly blocked its access to a critical voter database.

The lawsuit was filed after Sanders’ staffers were alleged to have exploited a software error, improperly accessing confidential voter information on the Iowa caucuses and New Hampshire primary collected by rival Hillary Clinton’s team.

"An independent investigation of the firewall failures in the DNC’s shared voter file database has definitively confirmed that the original claims by the DNC and the Clinton campaign were wholly inaccurate," the campaign said in a statement announcing the withdrawal of its lawsuit against the DNC on Friday, according to The Hill.

The Sanders team said the investigation vindicated them and showed no evidence they had accessed data belonging to the Clinton campaign. They maintain the authorized access came from “the DNC’s security failure” and requested the DNC address the “systemic instability that remains in its voter file system.”

"The Sanders campaign never 'stole' any voter file data; the Sanders campaign never 'exported' any unauthorized voter file data; and the Sanders campaign certainly never had access to the Clinton campaign’s 'strategic road map,” the campaign added.

A DNC investigation released on Friday showed that the wrongdoing did not go beyond four Sanders staffers, who accessed the database and were fired soon after the incident came to light.

“The forensic analysis conducted by the cybersecurity firm CrowdStrike confirmed that the DNC’s initial findings, which were the basis of the temporary shutdown in December, were accurate," said DNC communications director Luis Miranda in a statement.

"The audit confirmed that one campaign gained unauthorized access to the data of another, and the audit further confirmed that the results of those searches were saved within the system and that data was exported. Following the conclusion of the audit that confirmed the DNC's original findings, the Sanders campaign withdrew its lawsuit."

The DNC has agreed to restore the Sanders campaign’s access to the database.

The incident occurred in December when the Sanders team was discovered to have accessed turnout projections through a computer flaw. They ran multiple searches on Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada, South Carolina and about 10 other states, including Florida and Colorado, after noticing the software error.

The Clinton campaign had ranked voters on a scale of 1-100 for turnout, enthusiasm and support for the Iowa caucuses and the New Hampshire primary. The Sanders people ran two searches: “Show me all the Clinton people rated higher than 60” and “Show me all the people rated less than 30.”

This would have provided the Sanders campaign with a way of knowing who Sanders should target in the final weeks before voting, those who might be looking for an alternative candidate to Clinton.

Sanders apologized for the breach during a Democratic debate in December.

The incident also fueled a long-held belief in the Sanders camp and among his allies that the DNC was stacking the deck in favor of Clinton.