Request unsettling, but voter data needs to be public
By Hillary Hall
Boulder Daily Camera | 07/08/2017 07:45:45 PM MDT
Since last week when President Trump’s “election fraud” commission requested voter registration information from our Colorado secretary of state and all other secretaries of state throughout the nation, we have received calls and emails from concerned Boulder County voters. While I too agree with many of our community members that the commission’s request is unsettling, the information that the secretary of state has agreed to share is public — and it is vitally important it remain that way.
In order to conduct transparent and verifiable elections, the voter rolls must be publicly available to anyone. Politics and personal opinion should not dictate who can receive this information. Without voter registration and vote history being public there would be no way for any outside individual or organization to independently verify our election processes. It would simply have to be a “trust us” scenario with your state or local elected official maintaining the voter rolls with no external oversight.
Having the information public provides a check and balance on the process. Independent organizations can audit an election verifying that voters who said they voted, actually voted. It helps provide a clear picture of the election results showing that votes cast actually correspond with registered voters in a county and never exceeds it. Additionally, having voter registration information public also provides assurance that no one is getting improperly eliminated from the voter rolls at any time.
Current law requires, and has for many years, that a voter’s full name, residential address, party affiliation, date of affiliation, phone number (if provided by the voter), gender, birth year, and vote history (whether you voted, not how you voted), is publicly available (there is a fee for the file). What is not public is your driver’s license number, social security number, full date of birth, and email address. There needs to be enough information to identify individual voters with a high degree of certainty in order to verify who has cast a ballot in each election without giving away personal information that can potentially be used for illegal activities.
While I support voter information being public and Secretary Williams’s compliance with the law, I am opposed to the commission, its stated objectives and the process used to conduct their work. There is absolutely no evidence of widespread voter fraud in our country. I am concerned that the “findings” will further erode confidence in our electoral process and people will stop participating or not even register in the first place.
I have spent the last decade in office working to improve our election process, making voting in Colorado more accessible through same-day registration and the ability to cast your ballot in the most convenient way for you. Additionally, I have fought to make our election audits even more efficient and statistically valid. Colorado will be the first state in the nation this fall to conduct a Risk Limiting Audit, probably the most statistically accurate way to verify an election. I have championed these electoral legislative issues because I am passionate about voting rights and firmly believe that elections must be accessible to all eligible voters, conducted transparently and outcomes must be verifiable.
I will be closely monitoring the commission’s work and hope you will as well because we cannot move backwards in progress on these critical issues. Please remind your friends and neighbors that we must stay engaged in the democratic process in order for democracy to work for everyone.
Hillary Hall is the Boulder County clerk and recorder.