Bill seeks to limit access to Utah voter information

Jan 11 2014 - 7:47pm

SALT LAKE CITY -- Two Utah lawmakers plan to introduce legislation to limit access to the voter registration list that the state sells for $1,050, citing concerns about potential misuse.

Sen. Karen Mayne, D-West Valley City, and Rep. Lee Perry, R-Perry, said a website featuring voters' addresses, telephone numbers, birth dates and party affiliation for free is prompting the bipartisan effort.

"We have to make voters secure," Mayne told The Salt Lake Tribune, adding that some voters say they don't want to register to vote because of the site.

The legislation would restrict use of the list to "political, scholarly, journalistic or governmental purposes" and would prohibit its use for commercial purposes such as advertising, solicitation, sales or marketing. Violations would be punishable as a Class B misdemeanor.

Perry said he plans to include language that would prohibit the acquisition of birth dates. Just an age may be sufficient, he said.

Mark Thomas, Utah's election director, said the website, UTvoters.com, appears to be the first of its kind to publish a free, searchable list of Utah voter information, and it's legal.

Political candidates usually purchase the information, he said, and an average of 25 copies of the list are sold each year.

"It is something that should be available to candidates and political parties, and yet not making it so readily available that it can just be thrown up on a website for anyone to download. We understand why people are concerned by that," Thomas told the Deseret News.

The website's operator, Tom Alciere of Nashua, N.H., said the information is public under Utah law and he offers it free for genealogy and other purposes with the help of advertising.

Alciere, who has created similar pages for other states, said Ohio publishes the information on a website and it can be downloaded by county.

He defended his website, saying he's "making an honest dollar by getting public information that people are selling for a fee and making it available for free."

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