The Oregon Secretary of State’s Office has made nearly $90,000 off fees during the past five years by selling voter information to political parties or campaigns and, sometimes, to private corporations who turn around and sell the data for a profit. The state charges $500 for the database, which includes full names, addresses, phone numbers, date of birth, party registration and voter history. It does not include how anyone voted. The people who buy the database are not supposed to use it for commercial purposes, said Tony Green, a spokesman for Secretary of State Kate Brown. In fact, they must sign a form agreeing not to do so. Records show that many for-profit companies have purchased the entire database during the past five years.
Green said the law does not define “commercial purposes,” and the state relies on complaints before enforcement. First-time violators are fined $75.
Just one complaint has been filed since 2006, and it was against Oregon Health & Science University, which is “a public corporation and not considered operating for commercial purposes,” Green said.
Other states, including California and Washington, have similar restrictions on how data can be used; however, they levy very different consequences. In Washington, for example, misuse of the data is a class C felony punishable by up to five years in prison and/or a $10,000 fine.