Representative Rebecca Edwards will sponsor legislation in the upcoming legislative session that prohibits the release of Utah voters’ personal identifying information to anyone for any purpose without the voter’s prior, written authorization.
Her bill comes after the personal information of 1.5 million Utah registered voters, minus the information of Governor Herbert and other politicians, was posted on utvoters.com.
Edwards’ bill will (1) prohibit the release of any voter’s personal identifying information (full name; address; phone number; month, day and year of birth), party affiliation, voting history, etc. unless the voter has specifically authorized the state to release his/her records and (2) will make the voter’s birth date a private record. (Note: e-mail addresses are already private records as are Social Security numbers and driver’s license numbers).
Edwards has fought for years to protect voters’ personal identifying information. In 2011 and 2012, she ran bills to stop the release of voters’ birth dates.
Edwards makes it clear that that a bill (SB36) sponsored by Senator Karen Mayne and Representative Lee Perry is totally inadequate because it requires voters to share their personal information with political parties, political consultants/strategists, scholars, the media and governments.
The Mayne/Perry bill will not protect Utah voters’ personal identifying information since it does not require those receiving the information to protect it from disclosure to third parties either deliberately or inadvertently.
In addition, the Mayne/Perry bill does not impose any penalties for the improper handling, storage, release or disposal of voters’ private identifying information.
And, the Mayne/Perry bill has no means for preventing someone from purchasing the voter data base under false pretenses and anonymously posting it to the internet.
Edwards will face strong opposition from Utah’s two major political parties as they continue to demand that voters turn their records, including the full date of birth, over to the parties as a condition of voting. The parties will be joined in their opposition to Edward’s bill by power media and business groups and their high paid lobbyists.
However, all of these groups now face an angry citizenry that knows that the Herbert administration along with the Utah State Senate allowed their personal identifying information to be sold by the state of Utah and then to be legally posted to the internet.
Citizens are even more angry because the personal information of politicians, including Governor Herbert, was deleted from the list that was sold and eventually posted to the internet.
Finally, the backlash against the NSA’s data collection practices has made Utahns especially sensitive to government’s collection and control of their personal information.
When all of this is taken together and coupled with the fact that 2014 is an election year, opponents of Edward’s bill will have a harder time killing it than in previous years.
However, meaningful reform will only occur if citizens let their legislators and Governor Herbert know that it is not acceptable for the state to release their personal information and that the state must stop denying the right to vote to citizens who refuse to make their personal information public.