The secret ballot and voting privacy make up one of the most precious constitutional rights we have as Americans, but this right is being threatened by a federal government demand for all of Idaho’s voting records since 2006. You would think Washington, D.C., has enough of our information.
A new federal commission wants a trove of Idaho voting and personal information. Apparently, it doesn’t trust Idaho state officials to carefully administer our election laws. It wants to examine more than 700,000 Idaho voting records, create and place the information in another database for public view and determine “vulnerabilities.”
The requested information, if “publically available under the laws of your state” includes “full and last names of all registrants, middle names or initials if available, addresses, dates of birth, political party (if recorded in your state), last four digits of social security numbers if available, voter history (elections voted in) from 2006 onward, active/inactive status, cancelled status, information regarding any felony convictions” and more.
This is an insult to the people of Idaho, our county clerks and our elected officials. In the last 30 years, I can recall only a couple of individual cases of fraud. Sure, there has been an occasional person who made an honest mistake in voting, or people who thought they were eligible to vote in one location when they weren’t. Young people who frequently move encounter this problem. But Idaho has no significant problem, and if there is a problem I encourage citizens to report it to their local prosecutor or the secretary of state. Why is this federal intervention needed?
This new federal commission will cost plenty of our taxpayer dollars and our privacy. What are they going to do with this data? How are they going to track those that move and what right does the federal government have to even do that? Are federal investigators going to contact landlords, look at assessor records and interrogate voters regarding residences in order to determine “vulnerabilities”? The monetary expense will be substantial and voter participation less likely.
Our government would better serve us by ending the required party registration and eliminating the caucuses, which deny the vote to those who can’t attend. These new policies invade our privacy and create more Idaho voting problems than anything the federal government will find.
In fact, the federal government would do an even better service for us by having a budget on time for the first time in years, working together to revise the health care system in a logical and fair way and solving other longstanding issues.
The federal government should get its own house in order before it drags Idaho voters into a new central database for no good reason.
Rep. John Gannon is serving is a third term in the Idaho House of Representatives as a Democrat from District 17. He is an attorney in Boise.