National: U.S. voter info has always been public — but now it’s getting weaponized | Kevin Collier/NBC
When John Ratcliffe, the top U.S. intelligence official, said at a news conference last week that Iran and Russia had obtained American voter registration information, he left out an important point: American voters’ data is already public and widely available. “We have confirmed some voter registration information has been obtained by Iran and separately by Russia,” Ratcliffe said last Wednesday. “This data can be used by foreign actors to attempt to communicate false information to registered voters that they hope will cause confusion.” Iran had already weaponized some of that information in the form of threatening emails sent to some Democrats in Florida. The email campaign showed no signs of any successful effort to target Florida’s election infrastructure. But the campaign offered a stark reminder that voting in the U.S. comes with a strong chance that your personal information is shared online. While states’ readiness to share the information may not be common knowledge, it has been the reality for more than a century, said Eitan Hersh, a politics professor at Tufts University and author of a history of how political campaigns target voters.”I think there’s a pretty widespread view across the political spectrum that if you want to participate in the political process, having a public record about it is part of what that means,” he said. “It’s amazingly hard to not have your name, address and birthday in the public record.” State legislators periodically introduce bills to change state laws about sharing the information, but “the mainstream of both parties are committed to the idea that parties should be able to contact you, so these bills are squashed,” Hersh said.