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Voter Privacy in the Digital Age

Key findings and recommendations

States are gathering a wide array of data from voters through voter registration forms:

Of the five different kinds of notice to voters that appear on voter registration forms, penalty notice is the most common while secondary users notice is the least common:

Some voter data is redacted before records are made available to secondary users:

Voter data is widely disseminated to secondary users, including commercial interests in 22 states, typically without any notice to voters that their information will be shared:

In considering policy recommendations to states for protecting voter privacy in the digital age, it is important to balance the need to protect voter privacy with the equally important need for election agencies to continue to collect sufficient information from voters to ensure proper registration and keep elections secure. It is also important to recognize that voter lists are a fundamental part of the campaign process. The following recommendations to states would improve voter privacy while maintaining the integrity of election administration as well as the ability of campaigns to reach voters:

  1. Add notice language to voter registration forms stating that voter information is public record and explaining which secondary uses are permitted.

  2. Place clear instructions and indicators on voter registration forms that explain which fields are optional and which are required.

  3. Limit collection of data on voter registration forms.

  4. Protect sensitive voter data.

  5. Prohibit commercial use of voter lists and voter registration data.

  6. Strengthen enforcement of laws that protect voter data from abuses by secondary users.

  7. Consider applying the Federal Trade Commission’s Fair Information Practices principles to voter registration data (Notice, Choice, Access and Security).


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This page was first published on June 9, 2004 | Last updated on January 23, 2012
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