Go ahead – snoop.
The New York City Board of Elections has posted its voting rolls on its website, permitting anyone – everyone – to see citizens’ home addresses and party affiliation.
Officials argue that the information they have published online was already public record. Others are sounding the alarm about violation of privacy.
The upload is enormous, consisting of literally thousands of pages. In them, the curious and the marketers can find breakdowns, district-by-district, voters who are listed according to party and street name. In all, there are 4.6 million active registered voters.
“The New York City Board of Elections’ decision was theirs to make, but we believe sensitive voter information should always be protected,” noted Caitlin Girouard, a spokeswoman for Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, in an official statement. “When it comes to the current administration, we need to be extra vigilant to ensure New Yorkers’ information isn’t being used for politically motivated ill will.”
Albert Fox Cahn, the executive director of the Surveillance Technology Oversight Project, a privacy advocacy group, told the New York Times that there was a “big difference” in posting this information from other types. “It would be incredibly easy for anyone and everyone to simply take those documents and use them for whatever purposes they want.”
As the Times noted in its report, “North Carolina and Ohio make their data freely available for download on public sites, according to Michael McDonald, an associate professor at the University of Florida who runs The Election Project, which tracks election law across the country. Washington, D.C., published its voter rolls online in 2016, but after backlash, the law was revised and the elections board there discontinued the practice. Most jurisdictions will release voter data only after a request from someone who must give their name and contact information, or will give the data only to certain groups, such as political parties. Some charge a nominal fee.”
The Board began “dumping the records online in February because election officials (including embattled executive director Michael Ryan) couldn’t make a new state deadline which required the voter data published before the new state primary elections in June,” according to CBS News. “Ryan has already been since the debacle surrounding the 2018 election, where New Yorkers were forced to wait for hours in the pouring rain because of rampant voting machine problems.”
According to a statement from a Board of Elections spokesperson, the board posted the information in February “after the state legislature passed a package of election reform bills that consolidated state and federal primary elections in June. Traditionally, state and county party primary contests were held in September and only the congressional primary was held in June. The change in primary dates meant candidates had to collect signatures sooner to get on the ballot,” says WNYC.org.
BOE representative Valerie Vazquez-Diaz said in statement that it was “the method for us to meet our obligations under the new statute and enable candidates to begin the timely gathering of signatures to qualify for the ballot.” She added, “By law, this information is a public record.”