FROM:   Kim Alexander
DATE:   December 10, 2003
RE:   Voter Privacy study findings now online

Hi Folks,

I'm pleased to announce that the California Voter Foundation's nationwide voter registration data research findings are now available online, at

In 2002, CVF began a state-by-state research project to determine what data is collected from people when they register to vote in the 50 states and in the District of Columbia, and what secondary uses of the data are permitted. We began reporting on this research project this year and recently shared our key findings and recommendations with California Secretary of State's Task Force on Voter Privacy.

Our research focused on answering five key questions:

1. What data is being gathered today on voter registration forms?
2. What notice is provided to voters on voter registration forms?
3. What data is added to voter registration records by election agencies?
4. What data is redacted or kept confidential?
5. What secondary uses of the data are permitted?

Here are a few of the most significant findings of our research:

* 46 states ask voters to provide a phone number. In 18 states a phone number is required; in 28 states it is optional.

* 14 states ask voters to provide their place of birth, usually the city and state or foreign country.

* 38 state voter registration forms feature some fields that are designated as "optional;" only one-third of the states collecting optional information were found to provide clear and consistent notice on voter registration forms as to which fields are optional.

* Of the 49 state voter registration forms evaluated, only four contain any notice to registering voters that the data they provide on the registration form is a matter of public record.

* Only one state, Iowa, makes any specific reference to secondary users of voter registration data on their state form.

* Of the 49 states collecting voters' date of birth, 11 redact some or all of the voter's birthdate from voter rolls.

* 27 states give certain voters the right to remove their individual record from voter lists obtained by secondary users.

* Twenty-two states allow unrestricted access to voter lists that permits the use of voter data for commercial purposes.

Key Recommendations:

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

2. Place clear instructions and indicators on voter registration forms that explain which fields are optional and which ones 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; security).

A more extensive analysis will be available in CVF's forthcoming report, "Voter Privacy in the Digital Age". In the meantime, I hope you will find the data and recommendations we shared with the task force useful.

-- Kim Alexander, President, California Voter Foundation

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This page was first published on December 10, 2003 | Last updated on December 10, 2003
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