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Utah voters’ personal information posted to internet: Who fought to prevent it?

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Key Points:

  • Representatives Rebecca Edwards, Richard Greenwood, and Brian Greene have fought to protect voters' personal identifying information. House Speaker Rebecca Lockhart has allowed their bills to go forward and voted for one of Edward’s two bills.
  • Citizens who have testified before legislative committees in favor of bills to protect voter’s personal identifying information include Dan Duel, Michele LeMmon, Kris Kimball, Loma Lee McKinnon, Judy Cox, and Dalane England. In addition, Greg Mortensen has blogged extensively about the issue.
  • The Utah Association of Special Districts and county clerks have supported bills that would have protected voters’ personal identifying information.

This is the first of a two-part report. It looks at the elected officials and Utah citizens who tried to prevent the posting of the personal information of 1.5 million Utah voters’ to the internet. A future report will look at the elected officials and others who made it possible for voters' private information to be posted.

In spite of multiple written and verbal warnings to elected officials that the personal identifying information of 1.5 million Utah registered voters could be legally posted to the internet by anyone purchasing the Utah Voter Database from the state of Utah, senior Herbert administration officials, Utah Attorney Generals, Republican and Democrat Party leaders, Utah’s media elites, members of the 2013 Utah House Political Subdivisions Standing Committee and Utah state senators failed to protect Utah’s registered voters.

Even worse, they knowingly and willfully placed their own interests, those of their respective political parties and the interests of their businesses ahead of those of Utah’s registered voters.

However, a small number of honorable elected officials and a few courageous citizens recognized the threat and did their best to prevent the personal identifying information of Utah citizens from being sold by the state.

Representative Becky Edwards initially took the lead role in protecting voters’ birth dates with strong support from Representative Richard Greenwood. In 2013, Representative Brian Greene joined the battle.

All three are Republicans and all three risked losing party support because they were going against state Republican Party leaders who testified and heavily lobbied against their bills and amendments.

Speaker of the Utah House of Representatives Becky Lockhart, while not actively involved in protecting citizens’ voter records, did allow legislation to move ahead as opposed to senior officials in the Herbert administration and leaders in the Senate who actively worked to stop the legislation.

In addition, a number of private citizens tried to highlight the problem by publicizing it. Others helped legislators develop bills to address the problem while still others testified before legislative committees and tried for years to convince their fellow citizens of the seriousness of the problem. Citizens deserving special recognition include:

Dan Duel of the Davis 9/12 group who lobbied and testified in favor of all three bills that specifically addressed the sale of voters’ personal identifying information –HB410, HB304 and HB370.

Michele LeMmon of the Davis 9/12 Project testified in favor of HB410 and helped organize citizen support in favor of the bill.

Kris Kimball, United Women’s Forum, testified and lobbied for HB410.

Loma Lee McKinnon, Utah County 9/12 Project Group Leader testified in favor of HB304.

Judy Cox, citizen, testified in favor of HB304, lobbied legislators to protect Utah citizens’ personal identifying information and let citizens know that the state was selling their personal identifying information.

Dalane England, Utah Eagle Forum, testified in favor of HB410 and lobbied for this and other voter protection bills.

Greg Mortensen, wrote extensively about the sale of the voter list and was among the first to discover that the entire list had been posted on utvoters.com.

Scott Hogenson, Deputy Clerk/Auditor for Utah County provided strong support for voter protection bills. He testified in favor of HB304 while trying to not to antagonize legislators who opposed it and similar bills.

The Utah County Clerks/Auditors Association which has fought for many years to protect voter records and citizens’ personal identifying information.

Former Representative Chris Herrod who spoke in favor of a bill (HB410) that would have protected voters’ personal information. He told his fellow House members: “It’s not about party. Let’s do what’s right for the people we represent and not necessarily our party….Let’s do what’s right regardless of our political affiliation or whether it benefits our party.”

LeGrand Bitter and Heather Anderson, representing the Utah Association of Special Districts spoke in favor of HB304 and HB370 respectively. Anderson’s testimony raised the hackles of House Democrat leader, Representative Jan Seelig, who asked Anderson what the Special Districts connection with HB370 was and whether she personally knew of any identity fraud associated with the voter file. Anderson replied that her association supported it because it was good policy.

The remainder of this article looks in more detail at the legislators who stood up for their fellow citizens.

Representative Rebecca Edwards (R)

In 2011, responding to constituent concerns, Representative Edwards carried a bill (HB410) that would have protected voters’ birth dates.

Edward’s efforts were met with bipartisan opposition from her fellow legislators, Republican and Democratic Party officials, political consultants, and lobbyists from entities that buy, repackage and sell citizens’ personal information. Her bill was defeat by a vote of 30-42 in the House.

The next year (2012), Edwards came back with HB304 which was designed to prevent a voter’s month and day of birth from being disclosed. Once again, Edwards came under strong pressure to drop her bill.

Following discussions with media representatives and Democrat and Republican party leaders, the bill was rewritten to give each voter the right to opt out of having his/her birth date sold by the state.

The bill passed the House 66-4 with just four Democrats voting against it. (Click here to see the floor debate on this bill.) However, it was never heard by the Senate due to pressure from powerful interests, including the state’s two major political parties and the Utah Media Coalition that gave the bill a “lights out” rating. These groups oppose giving voters the right to protect their personal information and they deny anyone who refuses to make their information public the right to vote.

Edwards will once again buck party leaders, political consultants, the media coalition and powerful business lobbyists in 2014 by carrying a bill that makes voters’ birthdates a public record and that requires the state to obtain each registered voters’ authorization before releasing their personal information.

Representative Richard Greenwood (R)

Representative Greenwood took on the Republican and Democrat parties, powerful state Senator Margaret Dayton, the Lt. Governor’s office, the Utah Media Coalition and high paid lobbyists for Lexis Nexis and other businesses who oppose protecting citizens’ personal information when he amended SB18 to make a voter’s birth date a private record.

SB18 was sponsored by Senator Dayton on behalf of Lt. Governor Greg Bell. SB18 made a voter’s e-mail address a private record while leaving the voter’s full name, address, phone number, party affiliation, voting history and birth date public records accessible by everyone in the world.

Rather than embracing Greenwood’s amendment, Dayton, with the full support of Lt. Governor Bell, resorted to “gangster politics” and held all of Greenwood’s bills hostage in the Senate Rules Committee in an effort to force him to remove his amendment.

Greenwood finally allowed his amendment to be removed when he was promised that Edwards' HB304 would get a hearing in the Senate. However, Dayton and the Lt. Governor’s office went back on their word and HB304 never made it to the Senate floor.

In addition, Greenwood was instrumental in getting bills to protect voters’ identifying information out of committee by speaking in favor of the bills and successfully making the motion to pass both HB304 and HB410 out of committee with a favorable recommendation.

Representative Brian Greene (R)

Representative Greene took up the challenge of protecting Utahns’ personal identifying information in 2013 when proposed a bill (HB370) that would have made citizens’ birth dates private not only on voters’ records but on all other state records as well.

Greene’s efforts received another “lights out” rating from the Utah Media Coalition which was represented by lobbyists Doug Foxley and Frank Pignanelli.

Click here to listen to the committee hearing which includes Greene’s presentation and public testimony in favor of the bill.

During public testimony, committee members were specifically told that that the voter list could be legally posted to the internet (24:28 minutes on the audio recording).

Greene told the committee that “It is irresponsible for us as a government to provide that information [birth date] to anyone who asks for it. There is an inconsistency between what the Attorney General tells us and what we are doing. It’s not good policy for government to do this….Doing nothing and allowing this information to be disclosed to anyone who asks for it is not an acceptable alternative.”

In spite of Greene’s efforts and supporting testimony from citizens, the committee took no action on the bill and allowed 1.5 million voter’s personal identifying information to be posted to the internet just several months later.

Speaker Rebecca Lockhart (R)

Unlike some senior elected officials, Speaker Lockhart has not opposed efforts to protect voters’ personal identifying information. She has allowed bills to go to House committees and to be debated and voted on by the entire House.

In 2011, she voted against Edwards' bill that would have protected the month and day of birth but in 2012 she voted for another Edwards' bill that would have allowed voters to prevent the sale of their birth dates.

And unlike certain Herbert administration officials whose names were removed from voter lists that were sold by the Lt. Governor's office, Lockhart's personal identifying information along with that of her husband and children were on the list that was posted to the internet.

Part 2 of this report will look at those who made it possible for the information of 1.5 million registered voters to be posted to the internet.

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