Are Voting Records Public? A Deep Dive Into Voter Data 2022

Let me rip the bandaid off right off the bat. Are voting records public? Yes, they absolutely are. Not only that, but your voting record is also for sale via your state government. Read on for more.

The collection and dissemination of voting records is typically done at the state level. At a bare minimum, most voting records contain name, party affiliation, and full address. However, states are free to gather more information, some of which is made public. Your full voting record, and its public availability, might contain some of the following information:

  • Personally identifiable information (PII): Location and date of birth, parents’ names and maiden names, gender, military identification, Social Security number, passport number, signature, and drivers’ license information.
  • Contact-related Information: Phone number and email address.
  • Address-related information: Voting district, current address, past addresses.
  • Voting-related information: When you previously voted, party affiliation, precincts, absentee ballots, required assistance, and registering agencies.
  • Miscellaneous personal information: Most recent date of jury duty service, prior felony convictions, date of last received information, and status (active or inactive voter).

Protect Your Personal Data

Let Removaly keep a watchful eye on your personally identifiable information with automated, real-time data removal.

I know, that’s a lot of very intrusive information that can be publicly disseminated. It’s alarming, and it’s a problem, especially for something that is a given right. I hate to increase the alarm, but again, the bandaid. So here we go. Below, we will dig into who can access voter data, as well as deep dives into two of the largest collators of personal voter data online: VoterRecords and VoteRef.

Who can request and access voting record data?

This also varies from state to state. For example, the data broker and people search websites VoterRecords (which we remove from and have an opt out guide for here) only gathers and displays information from eighteen states and the District of Columbia. VoteRef does the same for about thirty states and Washington DC. See more about VoteRef in particular in the below accordion.

Essentially, statutes in each state define who is able to request a voter list, as well as what personal information can be publicly disseminated, and how the provided information can be used.

Depending on which state (and at times down to the county level) is in question, personal voting records can be requested by, as well as shared with:

  • Law enforcement officials
  • Political candidates and political parties
  • Private businesses
  • Government officials
  • Scholars and journalists
  • At times, members of the general public

A lot more information about how things are disclosed on a state-by-state basis can be found on the Access To and Use of Voter Registration Lists page on the National Conference of State Legislators website. That page is regularly updated and can be found here.

Using your voter registration data as a profit machine, Or A Political Statement

Two of the largest voter-focused people search websites online today, VoterRecords and VoteRef, both mentioned above, either utilize your private, personal information for their own profits (VoterRecords) or to make election-denial political statements (VoteRef).

VoterRecords, using voter registration for personal profit

In the FAQ page on VoterRecords, they state the following as the response to “Why is my voter record on this site?”: If your voter information is appearing on this site it is because the government released your information as public record. What they fail to note is that to gather this information into their public database, the operators of VoterRecords needed to actively pursue this data, and clean it into a format that works for their website.

This public data, which VoterRecords insists in multiple locations across their website is completely free, is not as free as one might think. This personally identifiable information (PII) is being actively utilized to line the pockets of the owners and operators of the VoterRecords website through paid advertising and affiliate connections to TruthFinder and BeenVerified.

Here are seven intrusive instances alone in a single search for an individual using VoterRecords with no ad blockers enabled:

  1. Pop-up after trying to do a search, leading straight to an affiliate link from people search site TruthFinder: IMAGE
  2. A sidebar with a Google AdSense advertisement, and buttons leading to TruthFinder again: IMAGE
  3. Voter registration sections where clicking the Background Report button leads to a BeenVerified affiliate link: IMAGE
  4. A View Phone Number link, which leads to TruthFinder again: IMAGE
  5. “That’s The One” and “View More Results” buttons lead to TruthFinder yet again: IMAGE
  6. Extensive paid banner ads all over results pages, putting your data front and center and getting paid to do so with every impression and click: IMAGE
  7. “View Report” and “Search More Reports” buttons lead straight to BeenVerified: IMAGE

VoteRef, using voter registration to make and enhance false political statements

VoteRef (a shortened version of the Voter Reference Foundation) is an interesting animal. They are a fast-growing database of voter information. Scrolling to the footer of their website, in very small text, is the following:

Restoration Action Inc is commonly known as Restoration of America, and funded by Restoration PAC, which states the following:

Restoration PAC is a non-partisan political action committee that engages in political activities, advocates for policy changes and/or the election or defeat of candidates on the basis of time-tested conservative principles. A quick glance at their website shows that they are not, in fact, a non-partisan PAC, but are a heavily conservative political action committee founded by a failed Senate candidate in 2015.

So, a conservative PAC is gathering personal voter data and disseminating it to the public via their subsidiary VoteRef. But it goes far deeper than that. They are essentially weaponizing voter records and user personal information.

The Voter Reference Foundation website, which can be found here, has a good chunk of its home page dedicated to its Twitter feed, which consistently retweets election denial related content from both dubious and incorrect sources. A quick scroll through tweets and retweets by @votereference shows retweets by The Federalist, the Daily Caller, the America First Policy Institute, and the Arizona GOP, who consistently peddles election conspiracy theories.

Additionally, the executive director of the Voter Reference Foundation is a woman named Gina Swoboda, vice-chair of the Arizona GOP.

A complete deep dive into the conflict of interest involved with VoteRef’s dissemination of personal information, the Voter Reference Foundation, and its founders and sneaky tactics, can be found at this in-depth expose from ProPublica.

I want my voting record to be made private!

Yes, most people do. Fortunately, at times there is recourse, depending on whether you fall into specific categories or not. While again a state-by-state thing, there are programs that allow specific people to keep some or part of voter records confidential to the public eye.

Protection Qualifications

  • Victims of crimes, those with protective orders, and family members: Texas, Oklahoma, New York, Maryland, Kansas, Hawaii, Virginia, Delaware, and California.
  • Domestic Violence Victims: All states except for Georgia, Illinois, Michigan, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, and Wyoming.
  • Reproductive healthcare medical providers, volunteers, patients, or employees: California.
  • Law enforcement officers: Virginia, Oklahoma, Montana, Missouri, Maryland, Louisiana, Hawaii, California, and Arizona.
  • Law enforcement spouses: Texas, Oklahoma, and Hawaii.
  • Foster parents: Virginia.
  • Retired federal and state attorneys and judges: Virginia, Texas, and Oklahoma.
  • Active service members: Oklahoma.
  • Witnesses and victims under protection: Missouri and Maryland.
  • Pre-registered voters under 18 years of age: Colorado.
  • Any voter requesting records be classified as “private”: Utah, Nevada, Washington DC, Alaska, and Arizona.

Now, all the above is discussing access to voting records that, while alarming and concerning, are technically legal. There have been quite a few issues as of late with illegal access to voting-related records and personal information.

One example of this occurred in 2018, where 35 million voter records from almost 20 states were illegally offered for sale on an online dark web forum.

Read more about that here.

Using Florida as an example

Florida is one of the country’s most intrusive states regarding the public availability of voter records and data. There are over 15 million Florida voter records on VoteRef (see here), over 18 million records on VoterRecords (see here), and even sites such as Florida Residents Directory exist to make voting-related information more publicly available.

Unfortunately, these databases are not updated as frequently as the actual voter registration database. So even getting your voter information redacted through common means with the state will have to be replicated across a variety of data brokers and people search sites that grab the same data and blast it publicly for the world to see.

For Florida, via the National Conference of State Legislators table, the following information can be determined:

  • Who can request the voter file?: Available to the public.
  • What information does the file contain?: Voter data is available to the public, except for what is listed as confidential.
  • What is kept confidential?: SSN, DL number, voter registration number, declinations to register to vote made at the DMV, information on when and where the person registered. Voter signatures may not be copied as part of an open records request. All information regarding preregistered applicants.
  • What can the file be used for?: Not specified.
  • Programs to keep voter information confidential?: ACP participants, pre-registrants.

But why is all this information publicly available for Florida? For one thing, it can be obtained, for free, by anyone at this link at Florida’s Department of the State. What is somewhat frightening is all of the information that is included in the extract disk that is provided to individuals, the fields of which can be found here.

Do you see a problem here? By exercising your voting rights as provided under multiple amendments to the US Constitution, you are essentially giving up your personal data to whoever feels like obtaining it. In the State of Florida, there are next to no confidentiality programs, either. And Florida isn’t even the worst offender.

Are Voting Records Public? Yes. What can we do about it?

It seems like a vicious circle, but getting involved in privacy-related legislation at the state level is the most effective method of influencing change in how personal information found in voting records is disseminated publicly. We have gathered and developed the most comprehensive guide to state-by-state privacy legislation online, which can be viewed here.

Protect Your Personal Data

Let Removaly keep a watchful eye on your personally identifiable information with automated, real-time data removal.

Leave a Comment