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SB36S03: Right to privacy or right to vote—you can't have both

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Key Points:

  • SB36S03 is a loophole laden bill that requires the state to sell the list of registered voters to anyone for research, political, journalistic, scholarly, governmental, health care and limited commercial purposes. It has no penalties for failing to properly handle, store and dispose of voters personal identifying information.
  • SB36S03 requires domestic violence victims, witnesses in child abuse trials, LDS General Authorities and other high profile individuals, and persons who are vulnerable to scams, identity theft, financial fraud and medical ID theft to choose between their right to privacy and their right to vote.
  • SB36S03 authorizes the media to publish the personal identifying information of all registered voters without any restrictions.
  • SB36S03 allows reproduction of the voter list and posting it to the internet for political, journalistic and scholarly purposes. This allows utvoters.com to continue to obtain and post the list since it is now a non-commercial, political website supporting efforts to end underage drinking laws and to oppose internet censorship.
  • SB36S03 encourages voters to cancel their voter registrations and discourages potential voters from registering unless the legislature passes and the governor signs HB302S01. (HB302S01 makes voters’ birth dates a protected record and allows voters to make their voter records private which prevents them from being sold to anyone for any purpose.)

SB36S03 was passed unanimously by the Utah state senate after it was sold by its sponsor, Karen Mayne, as a major step forward in protecting the personal identifying information of Utah’s registered voters.

However, SB36S03 provides no means for victims of domestic violence, vulnerable senior citizens and people who are at risk of identity theft, financial fraud, medical ID theft, etc. to have their personal identifying information removed before the list is sold to virtually everyone. And SB36S03 still requires the state to include the full birth date of each individual on lists that are sold.

In addition, Mayne filled the bill with loophole after loophole in order to meet the demands of the state’s two major political parties, politicians, the media and businesses so that by the time SB36S03 passed, voters were only very marginally better off than before.

In fact, even the sponsor’s stated intent of prohibiting utvoters.com or similar sites from posting the voter list to the internet was “loopholed” away as demonstrated by the morphing of utvoters.com into a political website which appears to bring it into compliance with SB36S03. This allows utvoters.com to continue to purchase and post the Utah voter list.

A careful reading of SB36S03 reveals the following.

  • The entire 1.5 million name voter list complete with every registered voter’s full name, address, phone number, full birth date, party affiliation, etc. continues to be sold for research, political, journalistic, scholarly and government purposes with no requirements to safeguard and properly dispose of the information.
  • Lines 132-135 allow those listed in lines 153-155 (political, journalistic, scholarly, governmental) to reproduce the entire list of registered voters, or information obtained from the list of registered voters, in any manner, including print, visual or audio format, electronic format, on the Internet, or via computer terminal.
  • Lines 142-145 allow a political party or other organization to sell to its members for no more than the cost of production, information compiled using, in part, information obtained from the list of registered voters [including every registered voters’ full name, addresses, phone number and birth date], if the compiled information is intended for use solely for political purposes. SB36S03 has no requirement to safeguard or properly dispose of the personal identifying information of the 1.5 million Utah registered voters on the list.
  • Lines 146 – 147 authorize the private information [full name, address, phone number and full birth date] of voters on the list, including that of domestic violence victims, law enforcement officials, the General Authorities of the LDS Church and other prominent individuals, Utah Supreme Court Justices, witnesses in criminal trials, "average" citizens, etc., to be published in a newspaper or other journalistic publication (lines 146-147).
  • Lines 148-149 allow a person to use the list of registered voters to solicit a donation for political or governmental purposes. There is no requirement to safeguard or properly dispose of the personal identifying information of the 1.5 million Utah registered voters on the list.
  • Lines 150-52 allow pollsters to obtain and use the voter list, complete with voters’ full personal identifying information, to conduct a survey for political, scholarly, journalistic, or governmental purposes. There is no requirement to safeguard or properly dispose of the personal identifying information of the 1.5 million Utah registered voters on the list.
  • Lines 153-155 allow a person to reproduce the list of registered voters, or personal identifying information obtained from the list of registered voters, for political, scholarly, journalistic, or governmental purposes. This section also exempts those using the list for a political, scholarly, journalistic or government purpose from prohibitions against posting it to the internet. There is no requirement to safeguard or properly dispose of the personal identifying information of the 1.5 million Utah registered voters on the list.
  • Lines 179-182 allows any individual to obtain and use the list of registered voters, or information obtained from the list of registered voters [full name, address, phone number and full birth date], for “research” purposes. According to the Salt Lake Tribune, this allows everyone to access the personal identifying information of every voter for monitoring elections but not for commercial purposes. There is no requirement to safeguard or properly dispose of the personal identifying information of the 1.5 million Utah voters on the list.
  • Lines 183-186 authorize a person to buy and to sell or provide the list of registered voters or information obtained from the list of registered voters to government officials and health care providers (doctors, dentists, pharmacists, physical therapists, social workers, marriage and family counselors, etc., etc.). This includes the complete identifying information of all registered voters. These entities, such as LexisNexis for example, must use industry standard security measures, to ensure that the list is not accessed by a person other than a government official/employee or health care provider.

The bottom line is that SB36S03 is nothing more than a thinly veiled attempt to make voters think that the legislature has taken strong steps to protect them when in reality voters are still forced to choose between their right to vote and their right to privacy.

Unless HB302SO1, which allows voters to opt out of having their voter records sold and that makes birth dates a protected record, is passed by both Houses, SB36S03 will ensure that still more voters cancel their voter registration and that potential voters will refuse to register to vote.

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