With the presidential election looming just around the corner, there seems to be reminders everywhere to “make sure you’re registered to vote” – in various news outlets, in social media, and even on signs in coffee shops. What you don’t hear that much about are the potential privacy risks associated with being registered to vote. We believe that the election process is a fundamental right that everyone should have access to; and we also believe that people need to make informed choices to balance their privacy and safety.
Unfortunately, registering to vote can raise privacy and safety risks for some survivors of domestic violence, sexual assault, stalking, or trafficking. For many, privacy and safety are intricately connected. Every state treats their voter information differently; however, the personal information of registered voters is often accessible in a number of ways. For example, many states allow people to check their voter status online, which can display their current home address. A list of state-specific links to check your voter status can be accessed here. Survivors who are registered can check this not just to ensure they are registered correctly, but to also see what someone else could learn about them if they know some of their basic information already. Please note: you don’t need to fill out any information on this site – just scroll past that section and you’ll see the list of states and where you can check your voter status.
Other states allow candidates for public office, researchers, or other groups to purchase voter records with very little regulation on what information may be included. Some states have Address Confidentiality Programs (ACPs) for survivors of violence that include protections to voter registration information; however, these programs are not a solution for everyone. Some ACPs are not able to protect voter record information and many have strict eligibility requirements.
This complex web of privacy risks and protections makes navigating the voter registration process a challenge for those who are concerned about their personal privacy for safety reasons. Survivors should understand how their personal information is handled when they register to vote and how it could be accessed by others, so they can assess their risk and make an informed decision. Additionally, we need to work to create more privacy protection options so that everyone who wants to vote can do so safely.
NNEDV just created a new resource, Voter Registration & Privacy, which dives into these issues even more. Check that out, learn more about how your personal information can be accessible, and, if it’s safe for you to do so, get out and vote this November!