Public records are documents filed with government agencies. This may include birth and death certificates, court records, professional licenses (like doctors or lawyers) as well as property tax information.
Voter enrollment data is also public information, and New York City’s Board of Elections recently made it accessible online so anyone could view voters’ names and home addresses instantly.
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Are Voter Registration Records Public Records?
All states and territories allow some form of public access to voter registration records, though how much information is accessible varies wildly by state and territory. Records may contain personal identifying data like name, birthdate and political party affiliation; as well as more specific data such as home addresses and voter ID numbers (VIDs). Commercial data brokers frequently sell this data for marketing and other uses; it may even find its way onto third-party websites or apps where it could be combined with information from offline or online sources to make it even more identifying.
New York’s Board of Elections recently made all its registration data freely accessible online, enabling everyone from candidates and activists to curious neighbors access information such as a voter’s name and address. This decision has received both praise and criticism.
Voter registration records in some states are more restricted, typically only providing current addresses of registered voters and occasionally their gender or voting history. Some state laws prohibit disclosing certain personal details like current employers or financial institutions that might contain personal data about an individual and there may also be limitations on who can request these records.
Other states provide more extensive lists that can be obtained for a fee from local elections offices, providing full names, dates of birth and current parties of registered voters as well as home addresses and voting histories of each registered voter. Some states limit access to these lists only to political parties engaged in “get out the vote” activities, current office-holders authorized activities conducted with state authorities or law enforcement officers making written requests with valid legal purposes in mind.
Enhanced voter registration records are often purchased by political campaigns and other groups, or private data brokers who pair them with additional data such as credit card transactions, purchases and social media profiles. Such records allow organizations to target specific voters with specific messages; such as encouraging them to vote or reminding them that they already did vote for a particular candidate.
Are Voter Lists Public Records?
Under most state laws, voter lists are public records which can be shared among political parties and candidates, law enforcement officials, government officials, businesses, scholars, journalists and even members of the general public. While such access can be useful to many parties involved, it also exposes voters to unlawful access and sale of their personal data online – this was seen recently when millions of voter records were unlawfully sold online through various platforms.
Access to voter records has enabled large data brokers to acquire lists, reformat them into an easier format and then sell them on the dark web for profit – leading to identity theft and fraud in some instances.
Voter information, such as party affiliation and home addresses, are generally public records in most states. However, certain programs exist to keep this data private for some voters who have experienced domestic violence, sexual assault or stalking or have survived human trafficking; such individuals can petition a court order to keep their address and party affiliation off lists.
Some state laws make requesting and receiving voter lists easier, while other jurisdictions have specific requirements and charges associated with providing it. A recent decision by New York City Board of Elections to post all registration lists online has drawn both praise and criticism from elections experts.
New York City voter lists are comprised of names, addresses, party affiliation, birthdate and last four digits of SSN or DL numbers of New York residents who wish to vote. Political parties and “get out the vote” activities can make use of these lists; other groups permitted include current office-holders as well as government or quasi-governmental entities performing official duties; police departments for legitimate law enforcement reasons and the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court as a jury management tool.
Additionally, this information is accessible to anyone who can demonstrate need for it for noncommercial purposes, such as genealogical searches. Requestors of voter lists at state archives and offices can view them on computer screens there but may not print, duplicate or transmit the data or compare it with similar publicly accessible databases.
Are Voter Enrollment Lists Public Records?
Politicians and candidates seeking to understand their electorate are particularly eager to acquire voter lists. Political parties and candidates typically request state-level information like party affiliation and home addresses (down to apartment number). Recently, more states have made these lists accessible online so anyone can see who votes where in the country.
New York City maintains an enormous voter database that’s freely accessible via any Internet connection, organized according to which district people live in; searching for someone like Donald Trump in New York’s 73rd Assembly District pulls up a PDF listing their full names and addresses; in some cases this information can even be printed onto address labels for mailing purposes.
In certain states, if an individual or entity requests information, an election office may make it available for noncommercial use such as elections, political activities, voter registration and law enforcement purposes. If someone wants certain data kept private they must sign an affidavit or petition explaining why that information should remain private – for instance in Alabama the Social Security number, month and day of birth remain private data.
Political parties, individuals supporting or opposing ballot measures or candidates, and other parties can enlist the services of county clerks to obtain state-wide voter lists that include names, dates of birth, party affiliation and residence addresses as well as voting history information for each voter located within all election districts in which that voter resides.
The Nebraska Public Records List may be viewed by members of the public during regular business hours and copies can be purchased for $.75 per page. It cannot be used commercially or promotionally and other public information includes names, addresses, political party affiliation, party status and signatures from voters who have signed their ballots; furthermore the following confidential data such as Social Security numbers/particular numbers/DL numbers/date of birth/telephone numbers etc are considered public record information in Nebraska.
Are Voter Affiliations Public Records?
Registering to vote requires individuals to provide personally identifying information such as their name, home address and political party affiliation to the government – information which will become part of public record and can sometimes be easily accessible via mouse clicks. New York City recently made available online their voter enrollment lists – a sprawling PDF document that provides district-by-district breakdown of registered voters categorized by name, party affiliation and street address (down to apartment number) information. Apps such as Voterly, which provides fact-based data that assists “the politically curious in becoming politically empowered”, make this information easily available. Voters must update their registration if their home address, name or party changes; failing this, it could void their vote registration.
Domestic violence survivors can petition to have their information deleted from public records; however, doing so requires proof and is not guaranteed.