State Forces Citizens to Choose Between Their Right to Privacy and Their Right to Vote

When Utah citizens register to vote, they give up their right to individual privacy because the state of Utah sells the entire voter data base which contains the personal identifying information of 1.5 million voters to anyone willing to pay $1,050 for it.


The list that is sold contains each voter’s first, last and middle name; month day and year of birth; address; phone number; party affiliation; voter identification number; voting record and other information.

The purchaser is free to use the voters’ personal identifying information in any manner he wants. 

He can print it out and throw it in the trashcan, use it for commercial purposes including debt collection and data mining, locate people he wishes to harm, and he can legally post the entire list to the internet.

If an unregistered voter refuses to allow the state to sell her personal identifying information, she cannot register to vote and is, therefore, denied her right to vote.  If a registered voter does not want the state to sell her personal information, she has to cancel his voter registration and also loses her right to vote.

In 2011 and 2012, Representative Becky Edwards tried to prevent voters’ birth dates from being sold.  The House killed her 2011 bill.  

Edwards’ 2012 bill passed the House on a 66-4 vote but the Lt. Governor and Senate leadership killed it despite being warned that the voter list could be legally posted to the internet.  However, the legislature did passSenator Margaret Dayton’s bill that makes it illegal for the state to sell a registered voter’s e-mail address.

In 2013, Representative Brian Greene tried to protect voters’ birth dates.  During a hearing on Greene’s bill, I warned the Political Subdivisions Standing Committee that the entire voter list could be legally posted to the internet.  The committee killed Greene’s bill.

Three months later the entire voter list was posted to the internet and now anyone, anywhere in the world can find the personal information of every Utahn who was registered to vote on the date the list was sold by the Lt. Governor’s office – June 19, 2013.

Interestingly, Governor Herbert and then Lt. Governor Bell’s records are deleted from lists before they are sold for ”security reasons.”  However, the information of victims of domestic violence and untold numbers of other Utahns who are at risk is included on every list sold.

The online list can be searched by name, address or birth date.  It can also be downloaded in a spreadsheet format free of charge.  Once downloaded, it can be sorted by year of birth in order to create senior scam lists.  Seniors can then be targeted either by mail or telephone.

In spite of this, the Herbert administration continues to sell voters’ personal information while removing the records of certain political elites and their families.  In addition, legislators continue to require voters to choose between their right to privacy and their right to vote.

I chose my right to privacy and canceled my voter registration on March 16, 2012. 

My personal information was not on the list posted on but I can no longer vote. 

Those who chose to maintain their voter registration can vote but their individual privacy has been compromised since their personal information is now online for the world to access.

The legislature needs to immediately 1) make a registered voter’s birth date a private record and 2) prohibit the release of a voters private identifying information without the voter’s approval since only each individual voter knows the risks associated with the release of his/her personal data.

 Ronald Mortensen, Ph.D. is a retired United States Foreign Service Officer.  He writes extensively on personal privacy issues and has testified before the United States Congress on identity theft.