A bipartisan House bill would prohibit the disclosure of voter registration data for commercial purposes but would make some information available to election and political committees.
House bill 5507, co-sponsored by state Rep. Josh Elliott, D-Hamden, and Rep. Terrie Wood, R-Darien, is before the Joint Committee on Government Administration and Elections.
The bill aims to protect sensitive voter registration information from commercial users that may be susceptible to hackers or who would sell the data.
“One of the main ideas is to protect people’s birthdays,” Elliott said. “Political parties can have access. We don’t want various commercial entities having that information. We want to find that balance to protect voters.”
The bill is similar to one presented by Secretary of the State Denise Merrill last year that received a favorable vote in committee but never got called in the House.
“We’ll be talking to them,” said Gabe Rosenberg, spokesman for Merrill’s office. “It does seem to be very similar to what she proposed last year. Obviously the devil is in the details.”
Voter registration typically requires the elector’s name, birth date and year, motor vehicle operator’s license number, social security number and signature, residential and mailing address, phone number and party affiliation.
Before disclosing voter information to a candidate or committee, the bill would mandate that the elector’s birth date and year be redacted in addition to current protections for Social Security and license numbers. The candidate or committee must state the purpose for using the information and agree not to further disclose the information.
It would also require notification to the voter that data is available for disclosure to candidates or political committees.
Open government advocates oppose the legislation, arguing that voter records must remain transparent to preserve the integrity of elections.
“Preserving transparency is the best way to defend results against those looking to question the integrity of our election system,” said Mike Savino, president of the Connecticut Council for Freedom of Information and Record-Journal local & state editor. “Furthermore, data breaches across all segments of our society — including commercial businesses, governmental institutions and even medical practices — have comprised personal data for hundreds millions of Americans. In reality, this bill will do little to protect personal data but will hamper the public’s ability to monitor elections.”
He pointed out that the Connecticut Post’s coverage of former state Rep. Christana Ayala, D-Bridegport, using public records, resulted in an elections enforcement investigation. Ayala was ultimately arrested for voter fraud.
A public hearing on House bill 5507 has not yet been scheduled.