- Associated Press - Friday, April 4, 2014

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) - Utah officials are hoping a new voter information law signed by Gov. Gary Herbert will protect citizen information from possible misuse.

The law, which Herbert signed Tuesday, limits the information publicly available from Utah’s voter registration rolls.

Utah sells the voter registration list for $1,050. It includes names, addresses and party affiliation, which will still be available under the new law.

But once the law takes effect May 13, access to a list that includes voter birth dates will be limited.

Sen. Karen Mayne, a West Valley City Democrat who sponsored the legislation, said it was prompted because of a website posting the entire list online for free.

Mayne said she heard from a host of groups, including domestic violence victims, who objected to having their information available and no longer wanted to be registered voters.

“The scenarios are endless that people brought to me,” she said.

The law only allows certain groups, such as political parties and health care providers, to access voter birth dates. It also restricts their use of that information for verifying identities or political purposes, such as urging support for a candidate. An exception for media allows election officials to provide a birth date to reporters trying to verify an individual’s identity.

Any other unauthorized access or use of could result in criminal and civil penalties.

The law includes new measures alerting voters about what information is protected when they register, and it allows domestic violence victims and others a path to get their entire voting record made private.

Mayne said the new restrictions set up road blocks for anybody wanting to misuse the list, but more changes may need to be made down the road.

“Anybody could use it,” she said of the list, “So this puts some breaks on how and when and where they can use this information.”

Mark Thomas, the chief deputy in the lieutenant governor’s office and the state elections director, said concerned citizens have been reaching out to his office.

“We got a lot of complaints. Dozens and dozens of complaints,” Thomas said. “People were not happy about it.”

Thomas said the state list is purchased about 25 times a year. About half the buyers are political groups and parties and the other have are commercial interests, Thomas said.

That doesn’t take into account the files that can be purchased from each of Utah’s 29 counties.

Around the country, restrictions on voter lists vary widely from state to state.

In Ohio, the list is a public record that can be publicly and freely downloaded from the secretary of state’s website, while Texas law allows anyone to obtain the voter registration list with redacted phone numbers and emails.

Other states are much more restrictive, such as Tennessee, which allows the entire list to only be available for political purposes. Everyone else can only access an individual voter record.

Utah’s lack of restrictions on the data had it lagging behind steps taken by other states, Mayne said, and noted her colleagues voted overwhelmingly in support the law.

“They got more emails and phone calls than any other piece of legislation,” Mayne said. “People were so concerned about this.”

___

Associated Press writers Ann Sanner in Columbus, Ohio, Erik Schelzig in Nashville, Tenn., and Chris Tomlinson in Austin, Texas, contributed to this report.

Copyright © 2018 The Washington Times, LLC.

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