Secretary of State Dennis Richardson said Thursday that he plans to change the type of voter registration information that is publicly available after receiving a second request from President Trump's election integrity commission.
Richardson said the commission's June 28 request for specific — and not all publicly available — information about Oregon voters raised privacy questions and prompted "a full legal and policy review." He announced a new policy that covers the kind of voter registration information a political party or organization can purchase from the state.
"Balancing the need for both privacy and transparency is a critical challenge in the internet age," Richardson said.
Under Oregon law, anyone who pays $500 can get specific voter registration information. The secretary of state's office does not disclose how a person voted in any election, or the voters' Social Security numbers, drivers' license numbers, signatures or disability information.
Richardson said that his new policy, which was developed with help from the state department of justice, will not disclose voters' phone numbers and birthdays, mostly because of the potential for "digital mining and widespread dissemination of personal information."
"The Legislature has enacted laws that require statewide voter lists to be publicly available, and this serves the critical public policy interest of ensuring transparency and accountability in the conduct of elections," he said. "I encourage the Legislature to comprehensively review the statutes governing publicly available voter information in the 2018 session; this new private information policy will serve as a stopgap until the Legislature decides to update the law."
Under his new policy, Richardson said information available on voter registration used for commercial purposes would include only full name, address, effective registration date and status, birth year, political party affiliation, voter participation history, precinct name, precinct split and associated Election Division number.
Commission's second request
Richardson was one of nearly four dozen secretaries of states to reject part of a request in late June from the Kris Kobach, vice chairman of the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity and the Kansas secretary of state, for information on voters. Kobach's request included information on Oregonians that was not publicly available.
On Wednesday, July 26, Richardson's office received a second request for information from the presidential commission that answered some of the original concerns voiced by secretaries of states in June. The request seeks only publicly available voters information and assured Richardson that the data would not be disclosed. Kobach's letter also said the commission would not release any personal information about voters.
Richardson said he could not release the information because the commission did not pay the required $500.