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State Voter Registration Databases: Immediate Actions and Future Improvements - Interim Report
The committee noted significant value without much negative impact on privacy in statistical tabulations of the reasons for voters being dropped from a VRD and publication of such tabulations, as well as in personal and private notification of individual voters of the reason(s) for being dropped. But the different points of view described above were reflected in the committee, and thus the committee takes no position on the desirability or undesirability of the above proposition. The committee might address this point in its final report.
Other privacy advocates have raised concerns about the widespread availability of complete voter registration information in the context of the physical security of battered men or women. Such individuals have good reason to keep their addresses private, and might be apprehensive with good reason about the availability of their addresses to their batterers. A second concern relates to abuse of lists of validated addresses for commercial marketing purposes—many citizens would be upset to know that the information they provided to exercise their right to vote in a democracy is also being used for commercial purposes. Addressing such issues properly belongs to state policy makers, who can develop (and sometimes have developed) regulation and law to protect citizen interests—for example, some states only allow political parties to obtain voter registration lists.
A second set of privacy issues arises from matching and linking records. For example, voter registration lists may be matched against a list of convicted felons. If a list of voters removed from the VRD is made public, those removed from the list improperly or removed for other reasons (that is, all nonfelons removed from the list) may be tainted by association in the public eye. Similarly, if a voter registration list is made public that indicates the source of an individual application, those who registered to vote at public assistance agencies might regard their privacy rights as having been violated. Although overt public disclosure would violate the NVRA, accidental disclosure through a security breach might have a similar result. This could in turn reduce the likelihood that people will seek out public assistance if seeking it will automatically place that information in a voter registration record that is publicly accessible. Alternatively, where registration is not automatic, it may reduce the number of individuals who take advantage of the ease of registering at the public assistance agency and thereby undercut the goal of the program.
A third set of privacy issues arises from insider access to the VRD. Insiders such as election officials could be expected to have access to the full set of information associated with any individual record, and possibly to some of the information in matched records existing in other databases. Although most election officials are trustworthy in this regard, a few might seek to use this access—improperly—for personal benefit or gain, and security measures (such as tamper-proof audit logs) are needed to prevent or deter such inappropriate insider access.