An Argument Against Public Access to Voter Registration Info
Data privacy and security is an ongoing and serious concern for many individuals. The use of VPN’s, alternative search engines, and other privacy tools has increased as internet users become increasingly aware of privacy matters. However, there is an area that has been largely neglected in the conversation about privacy and data security, and that is access to individual voting records.
I suspect many people are wholly unaware that their voting records are in fact public information, at least to some degree, in most states. The National Conference of State Legislatures has a list of state-by-state laws and regulations regarding voting records in the United States. As an example, voting records in Alaska containing a person’s name, address, and party affiliation are accessible by anyone who makes a request for this info.
I find this concerning as the potential for abuse is great – knowledge of someone’s party affiliation is often used in smear tactics against individuals on the wrong side of a PR war. Access to an individual’s address provides an even greater avenue for abuse of this information, as their registered address is likely to be their home address. This opens a wide range of potential threats to the individual voter, including the potential for harassment and threats to their safety or the safety of those living with them. Indeed, a search for “stalker voter registration” turns up several apparent instances wherein stalkers used someone’s publicly accessible voter registration to track their victim down. That is just one of many possible ways this information could be abused to threaten, harass, stalk, or otherwise damage someone’s life.
Accordingly I argue that voter registration records must be kept confidential and accessible only by entities that have a strict need to access the information, and then only for purposes directly relevant to electioneering. I can see no reasonable argument for this information to be a matter of public record by default. Should an individual choose to waive any right to privacy or to the security of their identifying information that is their prerogative, but to make much of an individual’s voter registration information publicly available by default defies all reason. The potential for abuse by individual, business, and state actors is great and any claims that this information being public is beneficial are highly dubious.
You are not required by law to register to vote (I.E. you are not required to register for registrations sake, but if you want to vote you will have to register) and government at all levels has multiple other avenues through which to access an individual’s information, so I see no argument that public voting records are necessary for any government function.
At the very least the option should be offered to have any information associated with your voter registration made confidential. Such a solution may be a satisfactory compromise for privacy advocates as well as anyone who sees a need for this information to be public as the decision is left to each voter.
Regardless, the current state of information security as it pertains to voter registration information is untenable. Personally, I would prefer the passing of a Federal law assigning minimum privacy requirements to all state voter records, which should include at least mandatory confidentiality of a person’s registered address and party affiliation. If you have concerns about this matter, I encourage you to reach out to your political representatives and to make efforts to pass voter privacy laws.