Clerk’s corner: Much fuss about voting records
August 3, 2017
Amidst allegations of Russian interference in US elections, President Trump formed the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity. The commission will study voter registration and voting processes used in Federal elections, and identify vulnerabilities in voting systems that could lead to improper voter registrations and fraudulent voting.
The request for voter information has created a firestorm of controversy, and concerned citizens are now challenging the transparency of voter records and open record laws in every state. Hundreds of Coloradans have called, e-mailed or written to the Colorado Secretary of State's Office, urging Secretary Wayne Williams to refuse to turn over public voter registration data to the Commission.
So what is all this fuss over the President's request for voter information?
Voter registration information is routinely released to candidates, special districts, local governments, political parties, interest groups and anyone else who wants it, yet it appears that thousands of voters had no idea their voting records were public.
For those unfamiliar with Colorado's open records law, it requires the secretary of state to provide limited information about registered voters to anyone who asks. The law does not permit the secretary of state, county election officials or anyone else to pick and choose who to give that information to.
Public information includes:
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• Full name
• Residential address
• Party affiliation and date of affiliation
• Phone number (if provided by the voter)
• Birth year
• Information about whether the individual has voted in prior elections. Though voting records reveal who voted in each election, voting choices are private.
Pending a restraining order, the U.S. District Court ruled in favor of the President's request for this information and on July 31, the Secretary of State released this public information.
Secretary Williams reiterated, "We will not give the Commission information that is not public in our state, this includes: Social Security numbers, driver's license numbers, and the specific date of your birth — all of that is confidential information."
In a recent letter, Secretary Williams assured the White House Commission that "Elections are working well in Colorado, and our state ranks as a leader in election administration. Thanks to sound policy and the hard work of our 64 county clerks and recorders, Colorado is often ranked first and always ranked in the top five in the nation in both voter turnout and percentage of eligible Coloradans who are registered to vote."
Colorado County Clerks report nearly 5,000 voters have withdrawn their voter registration since July 1, and the majority of these reports come from the large, metro counties.
Election officials across Colorado reassure voters that there is no cause for alarm. Citizens should continue to register to vote and participate in the election process. The important thing to remember is that democracy works best when a large number of people let their opinions be known.
One of my favorite quotes is from a very wise President Abraham Lincoln who once said "Elections belong to the people. It's their decision. If they decide to turn their back on the fire and burn their behinds, then they will just have to sit on their blisters".
Questions and comments can be addressed by contacting our Election Office at 970-824-9120 or by sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Until next month … Cheers.
Lila Herod is the Moffat County Clerk and Recorder.
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