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Bill aims to stop publication of voter information

Published January 13, 2014 2:49 pm

Website • Online posting of Utah data a security concern, officials say.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2014, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

State Sen. Karen Mayne said she was alarmed when she saw detailed Utah voter information posted online at UTvoters.com and available for anyone to view for free.

So citing concerns about identity theft and invasion of privacy, the West Valley City Democrat is sponsoring legislation that would limit access to the voter registration database, which can be purchased for $1,050 from the lieutenant governor's office.

"We have to make voters secure," Mayne said.

The database entries on UTvoters.com show a voter's name; address; full date of birth; party affiliation; date of voter registration; and a list of the dates that the voter cast a ballot — information that is public under state law. The last four digits of a voter's Social Security number and driver license numbers are not included because they are protected information under the Government Records Access and Management Act (GRAMA).

Mayne's legislation, SB36, would amend Utah's election code to limit use of the voter registration list to "political, scholarly, journalistic, or governmental purposes." Posting the list online, reproducing it in print or any other format, using it for commercial purposes or using it to harass someone would be a Class B misdemeanor, which is punishable by up to six months in jail.

The senator said she was told about the site by Salt Lake County Clerk Sherrie Swensen, who had received an email and a letter in November from voters concerned about their information being publicized and since has gotten more complaints.

Swensen said the state had to release the database to the website because it is public information under GRAMA. The site says it will remove entries if it receives a notarized request, she noted, but added that voters should not have to pay to have their signature notarized.

In addition, the site operator then will have a copy of the voter's signature, which is a security concern, Swensen said. She believes Mayne's bill, which is similar to a California law that protects voter data, will stop similar sites from popping up.

"Some are saying I don't want to be registered to vote" because of the site, Swensen said. "I don't want them to forgo their right to vote."

Mark Thomas, Utah's election director, said his office has tried during previous legislative sessions to either restrict access to the information or protect birth dates from disclosure but was unsuccessful. The situation is different now, he said.

"No doubt someone purchasing the database just to put it on a website is a game changer," Thomas said.

UTvoters.com, which contains advertisements, lists its mission as bringing public information to the public at no charge.

"Under the laws of Utah, the statewide voter list is available to anyone who wants to buy it, and there are no restrictions on its commercial use," a statement on the site says. "This should be a big help to the many genealogists living in Utah, especially since the exact birth dates are listed."

It also says that much of a person's information in available in public records and that the "integrity of the voter list is critical to fair elections, and public access is essential to protecting that integrity."

UTvoters' operator is identified as Tom Alciere of Nashua, N.H. He could not be reached for comment on Friday.


Twitter: PamelaMansonSLC






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