Voter rolls are not a retail commodity.

Beginning with the DNC hack in spring of 2016, it dawned on me (maybe I’m slow to the party, but eventually it clicks) that the retail market in voter registration databases is a bad idea. That’s been highlighted in the last few weeks by Kris Kobach’s ill-fated attempt to federalize voter information in a searchable facility. This was one of the key take-aways from the recent Time article on that chillingly describes how access to voter registration can be used to disrupt elections without ever touching one of those insecure DRE voting machines.
I even worked out a threat scenario and circulated it to some friends who agreed (1) it is plausible, and (2) it is not obviously illegal. You can see why if you follow the complicated trail in Guardian article.  Or if you just look at what the people creating the market in your voting data say about it:
Notes for a 2016 Democratic Campaign
Eric Schmidt
April 2014

Key is the development of a single record for a voter that aggregates all that is known about them.  In 2016 smart phones will be used to identify, meet, and update profiles on the voter.  A dynamic volunteer can easily speak with a voter and, with their email or other digital handle, get the voter videos and other answers to areas they care about (“the benefits of ACA to you” etc.)

The point is to be able to create dashboard, accurate to the individual vote level, that is predictive of future voter behavior.  Civis Analytics is one such company:

Civis Analytics, a company founded by the chief analytics officer of Barack Obama’s 2012 re-election campaign, has raised $22 million in Series A funding.



I’m not happy there’s a market in voter data, but I am even less happy that political parties, market analysts, and election owners do not seem to understand the significance of unauthorized access.  Unless there is a statute to the contrary, trading and in this kind of information is no more serious than buying and selling grocery store loyalty data.

I want the voter data market to be regulated. There is no consensus around this topic, but I am convinced this is a security hole big enough to drive a truck through.  I have friends who disagree, saying transparency in voter roles is important to prevent vote buying/trading, voter intimidation, and other problems.  Agreed, but that’s a long way from giving tacit approval to monetizing my contact and other personal information.

[As a side note:  I am baffled that my NRA-supporting friends have not been as up in arms (get it?) about this as they have about federal gun ownership registries.]

Regulation of this market, like many in the information age, will be messy.  Just look at how colleges and universities wrap themselves around the axle to comply with FERPA-mandated protection of student data, for example.  But that does not mean it should not be done.  At the very least, regulation can force information aggregators like the DNC and the RNC to provide safeguards to deter the sort of casual intrusion marking the 2016 election.


Author: mayorlarryvaughn

My name is Larry Vaughn. You last saw me In 1975 in Amity, New York. I was the town's mayor when a rogue sheriff tried to frighten 4th of July tourists with talk of a great white shark lurking off the shallow waters. Needless to say, I was not pleased with the panic that ensued. "No danger!" I said. "Fun in the water!" Then the shark started gobbling people up. I now regret that I did not do more to protect the people who trusted me, and I want to make sure the same thing does not happen to the voters of Georgia. There are sharks lurking offshore (in Russia, for example) who want to hack your votes. Like me your elected leaders are quick to shout "No danger!"

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