House panel amends, passes bill to limit access to Utah voter data
Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News
SALT LAKE CITY — State lawmakers are trying to figure out how to prevent Utah voters' information from being used for personal gain after a New Hampshire man bought it from the state and posted it online.
The Senate last week unanimously passed SB36 to limit access to the state's voter registration rolls and prohibit putting it on the Internet. It includes exceptions for political, scholarly, journalistic and governmental purposes.
But a House committee Monday expanded those exceptions to include banks, hospitals and insurance companies. It now goes the full House for consideration.
Some lawmakers say the amended bill strikes the right balance between people's privacy and access to public information, while others say it doesn't go far enough.
"In its present form, it doesn't solve the problem," Rep. Ken Ivory, R-West Jordan, said during a House Government Operations Committee meeting.
Committee members were told the information could be used for credit card fraud, identity theft and targeting older people and single women. Ivory and Rep. John Mathis, R-Vernal, said they've received more email on the issue than almost any other this session.
New Hampshire resident Tom Alciere legally bought a copy of the voter information database for $1,050 and posted it online at utvoters.com. It includes birthdates, cellphone numbers and addresses. Alciere sells advertising on the website.
"He is not going to make money on the backs of Utahns. He's not," said Sen. Karen Mayne, D-West Valley City, sponsor of SB36.
Under the bill, the lists could not be used for commercial purposes such as advertising, solicitation, sales or marketing. The information also could not be reproduced in an electronic, print, visual or audio format, and it could not be used to harass someone.
Howard Headlee, president of the Utah Bankers Association, told the committee the financial industry needs access to the voter rolls to verify the accuracy of information customers provide to banks.
Allowing that doesn't weaken the bill, but "gives us tools to know people are who they say they are," Headlee said.
"You've seen a lot of breaches of data. You haven’t seen it coming out of our industry," he said.
Political activist Ron Mortensen called the bill a thinly veiled attempt to make residents think the Legislature has taken steps to protect them. He said more people won't register to vote because they're unwilling to give up personal information.
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