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Voter Privacy


Growing concern about personal data privacy coupled with an increase in the practice of voter profiling -- that is, campaigns obtaining vast amounts of data about voters and using that data to precisely target specific voters for campaign messages -- led the California Voter Foundation (CVF) to take a closer look at the issue of voter privacy. CVF started to wonder how much information was being collected from voters across the country, and what was happening to it.

Questions of voter privacy are particularly timely in light of the passage in 2002 of the Help America Vote Act (HR 3295), which requires states to collect personal identifying numbers from registered voters and to create and maintain standardized statewide voter databases. Under this new federal mandate, the amount of data collected from voters is increasing and how that data is used and stored is changing, making large amounts of voter data more accessible than ever before.

In 2002, CVF, with assistance from the University of California at Berkeley's Boalt School of Law's Samuelson Law, Technology and Public Policy Clinic, conducted a state-by-state study about voter registration data, the results of which will be featured in a forthcoming report called "Voter Privacy in the Digital Age".

In 2003, California Secretary of State Kevin Shelley established a Task Force on Voter Privacy to "study standards for safeguarding voter file information" and "make sure that Californians have confidence that when they sign a petition or register to vote, their personal information is secure.” CVF President Kim Alexander testified before that Task Force, giving its members a preview of CVF's voter privacy study and some suggestions for how the Task Force can help protect voter privacy in California. The Task Force will issue a series of recommendations to the Secretary of State and Legislature, and The Secretary of State is required to adopt uniform guidelines based on its recommendations by January of 2005.

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This page was first published on February 12, 2004 | Last updated on January 27, 2006
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