Lawmaker wants to let you decide if Utah sells your voter info

Posted at 4:19 PM, Oct 07, 2016

SALT LAKE CITY -- A state lawmaker is planning a bill that would let you decide if your voter information is shared with third parties, blocking the state from selling it.

Rep. Becky Edwards, R-North Salt Lake, said she is drafting a bill that would let voters choose if their name, address, age, phone number and party affiliation can be sold by the state. On Wednesday, FOX 13 reported on a website that had purchased the voter registration database containing more than 1.4 million names and paired it with maps to show where you live, who you live with and also attempted to link to social media accounts.

"What I'm hearing from a lot of people is it's the business of the government to protect the people, not sell your data," Rep. Edwards said.

The information is a matter of public record. The Lt. Governor's Office, which oversees elections in Utah, routinely sells it to political parties and campaigns for $1,050. The state elections director told FOX 13 that some of the information has also been sold to data mining groups.

Rep. Edwards, who ran similar legislation in 2014, said it is time the state changed its privacy settings with voters' info.

"We have put voters in a situation where they are having to choose between registering to vote and protecting their privacy," she said. "No voter in the United States should have to be put in that situation."

In 2014, Utah's political parties fought Rep. Edwards' bill. A compromise bill passed that limited some information and allowed voters to request that their records be made private, if it met certain legal criteria (such as stalking, harassment or endangerment).

Rep. Edwards said it is not enough.

"These gaps still exist and we really haven't solved the problem," she told FOX 13 on Friday.

The Utah Democratic Party said it would oppose her latest bill.

"The Utah Democratic Party, along with other political parties, relies on public voting records to do our work. We use the voter file to make voting as easy as possible, providing voters with relevant information about candidates and elections," Utah Democratic Party Executive Director Lauren Littlefield said in an email to FOX 13.

"The state has done a good job of protecting voters’ identities by restricting birthdate information, and we commend them for that. However, we would oppose legislation that would restrict access to the voter file."

The Utah Republican Party did not immediately respond to a request for comment, but is expected to also oppose any effort to restrict access to the voter registration database.