Fair and Safe Voter List Access

Testimony given by Common Cause Illinois to the State Legislature





Before the Ethics and Elections Committee 

Hearing Date 

March 5, 2024 


My name is Mary Stonor Saunders, and I work on policy and outreach for Common Cause Illinois, the state chapter of a national nonpartisan pro-democracy organization with more than 1.5 million members and supporters. Over the years, Common Cause Illinois has worked tirelessly with our partners in the Just Democracy Illinois coalition to expand voter access across this state by championing reforms ranging from automatic voter registration to same day registration to the expansion of early voting and vote by mail. In addition, we provide a robust Election Protection program to ensure that our elections are fair and secure and that every eligible voter who wants to vote, can vote. 

Today I am here in support of HB4668, part of Just Democracy’s official policy platform, which will ensure the protection of sensitive, personal information of Illinois voters and expand public access to Illinois voter registration data for election purposes as required by federal law.  

As recent lawsuits brought against the Illinois State Board of Elections have made clear, the question is not IF we provide the public with access to voter registration data, but HOW.    

The two lawsuits (Illinois Conservative Union v. Illinois State Board of Elections and Public Interest Legal Foundation v. Bernadette Matthews) have created an urgent need to revise the Illinois Election Code (10 ILCS 5/1A-25) to  

  • comply with the National Voting Rights Act (of 1993)/federal law; 
  • clarify terms of public access to voter lists to protect privacy/confidentiality of registered voters; and 
  • centralize the dissemination of voter registration to the public to ensure the code is consistently applied and violations can be tracked. 

As dedicated proponents of transparency in government, we believe that the public, including community organizations, should have access to voter registration data. However, given today’s environment of mis/dis information, election denialism and conspiracies, it is imperative that as we bring the Illinois Election Code into compliance with the NVRA by establishing inclusive terms of access, that we also protect voters from bad actors and potential harassment and institute accountability mechanisms for those who abuse the terms of access. 

Our concerns about protecting voters from potential harassment or voter suppression, are not simply hypothetical. It is well established that across our nation, there are pervasive efforts to suppress the votes of communities of color, immigrant communities, student populations and the disabled.  While the policies and tactics of such efforts vary widely from state to state, a core and common component of such efforts is to “purge” voters from the rolls based on erroneous or incomplete information. Fortunately, Illinois has strong voter roll maintenance policies that protect us from such efforts at scale. And yet we are not immune. 

A case in point: merely two weeks after the ruling, the Illinois Conservative Union, now in possession of unredacted voter registration data, appeared to contemplate violating their nondisclosure requirement by publicly posting on their Facebook page that now that they had the voter lists, they would be organizing a door knocking campaign to find illegal aliens and fake voters.  It should be noted that ICU’s original post was taken down by Facebook due to “False Information: Checked by Independent Fact Checkers.” 

And to be clear, our concern is not solely based on national trends or a few Facebook posts. In fact, Illinois is not immune from local concerted and organized efforts to target vulnerable populations and promote election vigilantism.  As one of the leading partner organizations in Election Protection, we have no concerns about providing support and technical assistance to voters and reporting possible infractions or disputes for resolution. We do have concerns about using voter registration data to preemptively target specific individuals or neighborhoods. This is one of the reasons that HB4668 redacts highly sensitive personal data from public lists and why accountability mechanisms must be in place for those that abuse the terms of use. 

Additionally, while many in Illinois prize our decentralized system of election authorities, when it comes to protecting voters, we need Illinois’ Election Code to centralize the dissemination of voter registration data. With potentially 108 different protocols to review, track and report voter registration data requests, it is reasonable to anticipate that that some requests may not be processed according to code, potentially putting voters at risk. By centralizing the distribution of voter registration data to the public, HB4668 averts inconsistent or improper dissemination of voter registration data in the future. 

In summary, we believe that it is urgent that HB4668 be passed before the 2024 general elections to expand and protect voters’ rights. HB4668 will: 

  • Bring the Illinois Election Code into compliance with the NVRA.  
  • Expand access for community groups and the public to voter registration data for bona fide election purposes. 
  • Reinforce terms of public access to voter registration data by requiring all parties who request voter registration data to attest to not using the lists for commercial purposes harassment, intimidation, and only for bona fide election purposes. 
  • Protect voters’ sensitive personal information by excluding from public access voter email addresses, birth days, birth months, Illinois drivers license numbers, Illinois identification card numbers, street numbers, social security numbers and signatures. 
  • Establish accountability mechanisms for parties requesting voter registration data by publicly disclosing requests for voter registration data and prohibiting future access to the voter registration data to those who violate the terms of access. 
  • Ensure consistent implementation of voter registration data access policy by centralizing requests and disbursements of voter registration data through the Illinois State Board of Elections. 


Thank you for this opportunity to offer this testimony and for your careful consideration. I look forward to answering any questions that you might have.