House Passes Bill to Limit Voter Details

Feb 25, 2014

Lawmakers say they want to add some privacy protection for voters' personal details, including birth dates, phone numbers and addresses.
Lawmakers say they want to add some privacy protection for voters' personal details, including birth dates, phone numbers and addresses.
Credit Utah Elections Office

    

The Utah House has passed a bill that would allow voters to keep their personal information private. That information is currently available from voter registration records that have been posted online.

Eric Hutchings, R-Kearns, supports a bill that would allow voters to choose whether they want their personal details from state election records to be public. Last year, a web site bought personal information for 1.5 million Utah voters and posted it on the web. Hutchings says that kind of data is fodder for thieves like the ones who stole his identity.

“They had everything, my birthday, my social security, my address, my cell phone number. They had everything,” Hutchings said. “We have to protect the people and keep the confidence in the people that the government is not going to put them in a vulnerable position.”

Rep. Becky Edwards, R-North Salt Lake, is sponsoring a bill that would automatically exempt those personal details from public disclosure laws unless the voter opts in. She says the legislation would protect voters  – particularly elderly ones -- from scam artists. It also would shield victims of domestic violence. Edwards says Utahns want these protections.

“I believe strongly that an individual should not have to trade in their constitutional right to vote in order to insure their right to privacy,” Edwards said on the House floor.

Rep.  Rebecca Chavez-Houck, D-Salt Lake City, cast one of two “no” votes on the bill. Instead, she supports voter-information legislation by Sen. Karen Mayne, D-West Valley City. House lawmakers are expected to debate it soon.

“I believe that the other bill that we will have an opportunity to hear addresses what I believe is the main challenge,” Chavez-Houck said, “which is what happens to this information and how does the government sell this outright, how do other individuals access this information.” 

A coalition of Utah newspapers and broadcast outlets also supports Mayne’s bill. It would ban the sale of voter lists to anyone except political parties, researchers and journalists. The coalition opposes Edwards’ bill.