Arizona Republic: Arizona bills would post voters’ names, addresses, birth years and ballot images
Arizona Republic: Arizona bills would post voters' names, addresses, birth years and ballot images
Voting is the cornerstone of our democracy and the fundamental right upon which all our civil liberties rest.
The right to privately and securely cast a ballot, a pillar of voting rights, has stood the test of time as Arizona’s democracy has faced increasing attacks in recent years. The Arizona Constitution affirms “secrecy in voting shall be preserved,” but Senate Bill 1324 and House Bill 2560 put this at risk.
The companion bills, dubbed the “Voter Privacy Violation Act” by civil rights advocates, would make Arizona an extreme outlier by posting detailed voter data and unfiltered ballot images online during the critical post-election leading up to certification of the results.
Lawmakers and Gov. Katie Hobbs must reject these assaults on our democracy.
Bills would post voters’ names, addresses
Transparency into our election process is essential to guarantee free and fair elections, but sponsors of the Voter Privacy Violation Act used the false pretense of it to introduce the legislation.
In actuality, the act creates a threatening voting environment by posting voters’ names, addresses, birth years and all ballot images online.
It then connects that information to voters’ specific precincts before certification, when it could be used to identify individual voters and to manufacture election falsehoods.
Arizona already has data sharing policies that balance transparency in the election process with protecting voters and election workers.
Arizonans should be alarmed that lawmakers are increasingly supporting legislation that would unravel our electoral process. And now, Secretary of State Adrian Fontes has joined them by supporting these mirror bills.
Info could be used to identify, target voters
In a landscape increasingly plagued by voter intimidation, publicizing voters’ personal information along with their voting record opens the floodgates to harassment.
Bad actors could easily abuse this data ahead of certification by cross-referencing posted ballots with the information of voters in the public database.
This could happen especially in smaller precincts where there are a few outlier ballots that go against the voting trend of the precinct and with those that include write-in candidates.
Publishing the cast vote record which includes precinct votes by every race could be used to target specific areas based on how residents voted. Additionally, people sometimes inadvertently sign their ballots; posting these images without scraping images poses a threat to a voter’s right to a secret ballot.
Extra data could slow election certification
This is not a far-fetched reality.
During the 2020 election, extremists knocked on the doors of unsuspecting Arizonans, demanding to know how individuals voted – in the name of election denialism. The passage of the Voter Privacy Violation Act would streamline these vile efforts.
The legislation would also hinder the election certification process by extending the time for election contests and providing unnecessary data that would logjam the process. Some Arizona counties already face challenges certifying elections by the deadline.
The extended timeline and raw data would further prevent election officials from meeting critical deadlines and would give election contestants more resources to manipulate facts and spread disinformation – one of the biggest threats currently facing our democracy.
Similar bill in Colorado has needed guardrails
Lawmakers recognize the threat of harm that comes with this legislation – the text includes a clause to shield election officials from liability if harm were to be committed against voters based on the information it mandates become public.
But this gets the role of government backward. The state is constitutionally obligated to protect voter privacy and safety, not facilitate the violation of those rights.
Voter transparency laws have been implemented in other states, with Colorado being the closest example to Arizona, though there are key differences.
Colorado still requires counties to anonymize ballots and take affirmative steps to prevent violations of the secret ballot. Additionally, Colorado publishes the information only after election certification, preventing misinformation peddlers from interfering with the election process.
Arizona’s proposals have no such guardrails to protect privacy or to preserve the integrity of the election certification process.
There’s no need to trample voters’ privacy rights
The vast majority of Arizona voters have confidence in our election results, and lawmakers have the obligation to uphold voters’ confidence in our democratic systems.
There is no need to trample voters’ federal and state right to privacy and risk the dangers to our democracy that would accompany such reckless legislation.
Arizonans deserve to make their voices heard in our democracy, free from the intimidation and threats of bad actors, which is not possible under the Voter Privacy Violation Act.
In the name of supposed transparency, these bills will facilitate chaos, put voters at risk and violate voters’ constitutional rights, all to appease election denialists ahead of a massively consequential election year.
To read the full op-ed, click here.