Column: Utah House Barely Passes Bill Allowing Voters Who Fear for Their Safety and Security to Protect their Private Information
By Ronald Mortensen / March 7,, 2017 / Columnist at Utah Standard News
Late in the evening of March 6, the Utah House of Representatives passed HB348 sponsored by Representative Becky Edwards by a single vote, 38-37.
HB348 allows Utah voters who need to protect their private identifying information for safety and security reasons to make their voter records private by filling out a form and submitting it to their county clerk. It now goes to the Utah Senate for further action.
During her presentation of the bill, Edwards noted that the state currently sells the personal identifying information of all 1.4 million Utah voters to anyone with $1,050.
She then called on her fellow House members to allow voters to conduct their own individual safety and security analysis and, if required, to make their voter records private so the state would no longer sell them.
Edwards said: “Now some will argue that if we do this, too many people will make their records private. To that I would simply ask: ‘Do you profess to know better than your constituents what an acceptable level of threat is to them? How would you feel if one of your constituents was harmed because you prohibited them from protecting their personal information in order to exercise their right to vote?”
She then continued: “If we don’t give voters the means to protect themselves, the only alternative they have is to cancel their existing voter registrations if already registered or not to register to vote if not already signed up.”
When the final vote was taken, roughly one-half of the Utah House of Representatives voted to put their personal campaign interests, their political parties’ interests and business interests ahead of safety and security of Utah voters.
It is far from certain that the Utah Senate will pass HB348 because many Senators may put their campaign and party interests ahead of the citizens just as many House members did. It is, therefore, crucial for voters’ who wish to protect their safety and security to contact their State Senator immediately.
Background on HB348
At the present time, legislators require the State Elections office to sell the entire voter list for $1,050 to anyone who wishes to purchase it. Once purchased, they can do whatever they want with it including posting it to the Internet. (You won’t find Governor Herbert’s information on this site since his and his family’s records were made private for security reasons before the list was sold.)
The voter list that is sold to the general public contains the personal identifying information of over 1.4 million Utahns – their full names, addresses, phone numbers, party affiliation, voting history, voting method, etc.
The voter list sold to parties, candidates, financial, insurance and health care institutions as well as to their agents and contractors includes all of the information on the public list plus every voter’s full birth date (month, day, year).
Many of the people on the voter list that is sold absolutely need to keep their personal information private – victims of violent crimes including domestic violence, military and diplomatic personnel, senior ecclesiastical leaders, stalking victims and many more.
In spite of this, the legislature mandates that every voter’s personal information be made public and sold far and wide unless they can produce a police report or court record.
Under HB348, voters who fear for their safety and security can individually submit a formal, written request to their county clerks to have their voter records made private. They will no longer have to submit a police report or a court record which many people at risk do not have and which makes them wait until an incident occurs before being able to protect their records.
HB348 as passed by the House allows registered voters to determine their own safety and security threat levels and to proactively protect their information when they determine that is necessary.
This also avoids re-victimizing victims of domestic violence or child molestation by forcing them to prove to a county clerk that they are victims of these terrible crimes.
In addition, HB348 ensures that legislators do not violate the intent of Utah’s Grama Act 63G-2-305 Paragraph 11 which prevents the disclosure of records which would jeopardize the life or safety of an individual.
It is important to note that this bill still requires considerable effort on the part of voters who wish to protect their information. First, they have to be aware that their voter records are sold. Then they have to determine if the sale of the personal information is a threat to their safety and security. If they determine that the release of the record poses a threat to them, then they have to obtain the form required to request that their information be made private. And finally, they then have to complete the form and submit it to their county clerk or to the state elections office.
In sum, HB348 strikes a balance between the desire for many entities to have access to the voter list while still ensuring the safety and security of voters.
Those voting to allow their constituents to protect their private information for safety and security reasons (yea) and those voting to deny their constituents the right to protect their private information for safety and security reasons (nay) are as follows:
2HB 348Voter Records Amendments
Yeas 38 Nays 37 N/V 0 Closed
Yeas – 38 [Voting to allow their constituents to protect their private information for safety and security reasons]:
Barlow, S, Chew, S., Christensen, L., Christofferson, K., Daw, B., Duckworth, S., Dunnigan, J., Edwards, R., Eliason, S., Fawson, J., Froerer, G., Grover, K., Handy, S., Hawkes, T., Hughes, G., Hutchings, E., Ivory, K., Kennedy, M., Last, B., Lisonbee, K., Nelson, M., Noel, M., Perry, L., Pitcher, D., Potter, V., Pulsipher, S., Ray, P., Redd, E., Sandall, S., Schultz, M., Snow, V. L., Spendlove, R., Stratton, K., Ward, R., Watkins, C., Webb, R. C., Westwood, J., Wilson, B.
Nays – 37 [Voting to deny their constituents the right to protect their private information for safety and security reasons]
Albrecht, C., Arent, P., Briscoe, J., Brooks, W., Chavez-Houck, R., Coleman, K., Cutler, B. R., Gardiner, A., Gibson, F., Greene, B., Hall, C., Hemingway, L., Hollins, S., King, Brian S., Knotwell, J., Kwan, K., Maloy, A.C., McCay, D., McKell, M., Miles, K., Moss, C., Moss, J., Owens, D., Peterson, J., Peterson, V., Poulson, M., Quinn, T., Roberts, M., Romero, A., Sagers, D., Sanpei, D., Stanard, J., Thurston, N., Weight, E., Wheatley, M., Wilde, L., Winder, M.
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