Merrill Seeks To Limit Voter Information
HARTFORD, CT — Secretary of the State Denise Merrill wants to limit the amount of data from the voter rolls that’s publicly available.
Merrill suggested Wednesday that the legislature’s Government Administration and Elections Committee may debate a bill this year that would exempt the day and the date of a persons birthday from publicly available information.
The public would still be able to obtain the name, address, phone number, party affiliation, gender, party history, voting history, and the year a person was born.
Merrill said by removing the month and the day a person was born and only giving out the birth year it will protect the public from identity theft. The full date of birth would still be maintained by the government, but it would no longer be given to the public.
She said she’s learned to steal someone’s identity you need three pieces of information: name, address, and birthdate. She said by limiting the information about a birth date they will be able to protect Connecticut voters from identity theft.
“It would stop bad actors from stealing the identity,” Merrill said.
The proposal stems from the discussion around the now defunct Presidential Commission on Voting Integrity, which was disbanded last year after it was unable to produce any evidence of improprieties during the 2016 election.
This past summer, Merrill refused to comply with a request from that commission to send Connecticut’s voter file.
“I have never received as much mail or phone calls as I did about this issue,” Merrill said.
She said Connecticut’s voter file is on one end of the spectrum and is extremely open.
“We are a very open file state, but I think my concern is when people register to vote they should only be concerned with their voting and they shouldn’t have to worry their personal information is being compromised and that’s what they’re worried about,” Merrill said. “I think mostly they’re worried about identity theft.”
In Connecticut, anyone at the moment can purchase a copy of the voter file for around $300 and they don’t have to say how they will use the database.
Merrill’s staff said they receive several requests per week for the list, which is updated constantly.
Mostly the parties and campaigns request the information, but it’s also available for commercial purposes.
She said she wants to limit the purpose for which the voter roll can be used.
Currently, anyone can request and purchase the list.
Tom Alciere of New Hampshire purchased the Connecticut voter list and published it to the Internet.
The website informs voters they can get their name taken off the list if they send him a notarized form, but “we cannot remove your name from the voter file Hartford sends out, nor can we remove information from the fee-based websites.”
Merrill said they want to stop people like Alciere from obtaining the list.
She said selling information is not the proper role for her office.
She said she doesn’t want to be a purveyor of data. She wants to make sure people are able to exercise their right to vote without worrying whether their identity will be stolen.
“I’m really on the side of the public on this,” Merrill said.
The Government Administrations and Elections Committee is expected to hold its first meeting Friday.