Private voter registration information, not so private after all

ST. GEORGE — With the click of a mouse your private information including address, date of birth and telephone number are now available online for free.  A website, UTvoters.com, not affiliated with the state, has posted the personal information of about 1.5 million Utah registered voters on their site for anyone to see.

The website was created by New Hampshire man, Tom Alciere, who also has websites with voter information set up for several other states. He purchased the information from the State of Utah legally because these records have been classified as public records.

The information contained in the state of Utah voter’s registration database is available to the public for a fee of $1,050.

“What happened was GRAMA (the Government Records Access Management Act), passed years ago which requires these records to be available to go out to the public,” Mark Thomas, Director of Elections with the Utah Lt. Governor’s Office said. “Included in that is specifically the voter registration database.”

There have been concerns over the years particularly about the birth date that is provided, there have been several previous efforts made to make the birth date private or change it to just include the age of the voter, Thomas said.

One of the biggest obstacles to privatizing some of the personal information are the political parties and candidates, who like to have access to the full date of birth to assist them in their campaigns.

Speaking about a past bill to privatize the birth date, Thomas said: “One year I remember a legislator said this has got to be one of the easiest bills that we have got to address; you have bipartisan support to kill the bill; you had both the Democratic party and the Republican party, arguing to keep the birth date open.”

Other proponents of keeping the records open are large data-mining companies that are able to hire lobbyists to persuade lawmakers to keep these records open . Others argue that the records need to remain open in order to keep free and open elections and prevent voter fraud, Thomas said.

Utah Gov. Gary Herbert had his information removed from the state database due to a previous specific threat. Herbert was concerned about the date of birth being made available when he came into office, Thomas said, “if it’s a safety issue there is a mechanism to protect your information.”

You can go to the county clerk’s office in Washington County and simply fill out a form in order to  withhold your address and telephone number from their records, Washington County Clerk Kim Hafen said. “I am in favor of keeping the information private,” he said. However, doing this will only withhold the information at the county clerk’s office and not the information in the state database unless new laws are passed to restrict this information.

State Sen. Karen Mayne, a Democrat,West Valley City is sponsoring a bill in this year’s legislative session that would place restrictions on the voter registration data. Concerning the need to protect this information, KUTV2 news reported on Jan. 10 that Mayne said:  “We have a right to vote and we need to be able to have that vote and that information protected.”

“I think it should be illegal, I don’t think the state should be giving out that information, it’s an invasion of my privacy,” Washington County registered voter Laurie Sandberg said.

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Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2014, all rights reserved.

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3 Comments

  • Francis Pope January 29, 2014 at 12:04 pm

    Once again, we see how our politicians are working against the public interest! By making this information public, they have put each and every one of us at increased risk for identity theft. And even if all that information was suddenly removed tomorrow, those of us who are already listed are compromised from now on. Once the information is out there, it is there forever in one way or another. I wonder if people really know just how financially dangerous this is to the voting population.

  • Bub January 29, 2014 at 12:53 pm

    frightening really. Makes a person wonder if it’s even safe to be a voter…

    • Bub January 29, 2014 at 3:10 pm

      What’s funny is that you can find the home address of any utah voter on that site, including leaders in the top of the LDS church hierarchy.

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