If you have voted in Pennsylvania, anyone can view your personal information including your name, gender, date of birth, and date you registered to vote. It tells if you are an active or inactive voter, and when you last changed voter status or party affiliation. Also, your residential and mailing addresses, and your polling place are included. It details the last date you voted, your school, state legislature, and congressional district. It contains your voter history, and the date that record was last changed. Anyone can read this. It just costs $20 on the Pennsylvania Department of State web site.
Recently, the Pennsylvania Senate’s Intergovernmental Operations Committee’s presented arguments for their subpoena to the Commonwealth Court for election processes as well as additional personal information about you. The committee seeks details including guidance issued by the Department of State to county election officials, including training materials and directives. That sounds reasonable. But in addition, it demands the release to the Committee of voter data including some things that are already publicly available and some that are not. They want your driver’s license and the last 4 digits of your social security number. This is supposedly in the cause of election integrity. But not to worry. The politicians assure us that this additional personal data will be kept “secret” by them.
How many times will we need to receive apologies from companies and institutions because they suffered a data break-in containing our personal information? In 2021 alone, millions of “secure” data files were stolen and sold on the ‘dark web’. It is becoming clear that the only sure way of protecting personal data is to not provide it.
Given the challenges of data security faced by even the most sophisticated data protection firms, why would we create the tempting target for identity thieves of a single store of personal data? This database would contain your name, address, date of birth, driver’s license number and partial social security numbers – all in one convenient-to-download file. Driver’s license numbers and partial social security numbers, we would argue, are unnecessary for the Committee’s stated purpose of auditing the election. There is already significant individual voter data available publicly.
This committee demand is an unreasonable waste of resources and a dangerous exposure of voter’s personal information. Hopefully, the court will see the problems inherent in this plan and act to protect the public from yet another exposure of personal information.