If you’re a registered voter, are you aware that what you write on your registration form is publicly available? “Commercial” interests are barred from that data. But all sorts of other people have legal access to it. A lot of people think only government agencies can access voter registration information – the courts, for instance, to summon you for jury duty. But it can be purchased for purposes such as scholarly and journalistic research, and for use in “elections” and “politics”. Buyers are only a phone call away from you. “So I received a phone call and was invited to be paid to share my political opinions,” says Jennifer Armour, a voter registered in the city of San Diego. “And I was told the reason I was being called was because of information that was tied to my voter registration.”
Armour was being solicited for a political focus group — under state law, an appropriate cause to which county voter registrars can sell voter registration information ‘at cost’.
But the telemarketer, whose phone number Armour eventually tracked to a local research firm, wouldn’t tell her who was behind the request.
And that just didn’t seem ‘cricket’.
“The marketing firm that represents a political organization is not the political organization themselves,” Armour said in an interview Thursday. “So that is another entity that was given my information that maybe should not have.”
She filed a complaint with the registrar’s office, where voter forms say your information is protected against “commercial use”.
Purchasers of that data have to fill out forms certifying they’re qualified to receive it.