Bill to make voter records secret amended to allow access by journalists
CALIFORNIA — A bill pending before the state legislature makes voter records confidential. Yet an April amendment to the bill allows access to the information for “journalistic” purposes.
Claiming people do not register to vote for fear of loss of privacy, privacy advocates initiated legislation to close off access to voter registration information for all voters. People whose fame, notoriety or occupations make them vulnerable to stalking are concerned about having their names, addresses and telephone numbers readily available to the public, the bill’s sponsors say.
Senate Bill 1518, which made it through committee and was pending on the Senate floor in early May, would cut off access to an entire class of traditional public records.
Voter registration cards include the voter’s home address, telephone number, occupation, precinct number and prior registration information.
Existing law makes the voter registration card confidential upon request by certain people, including judges and law enforcement officials. Anyone who wants voter information on another individual must fill out an application with that individual’s name, address and telephone number. Applicants must provide under oath their address, telephone number and intended use of the information.
The bill would have permitted release of confidential voter information only for campaign, election, scholarly or political research or governmental purposes, or in the case of a challenge to a person’s vote. The press exemption adds “journalistic” research to the list of reasons for disclosure.
(S.B. 1518, Calif. Legis. (1994))