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10/13/2004 Archived Entry: "Privacy and not voting"

For those concerned about their privacy, there is yet another reason not to vote. Kirsten Anderberg writes in Portland Indymedia, "Give me your name, city, and state, and I can probably get your home address in less than an hour *if you vote.* Any information you include on your voter registration form, can be had by any member of the public, for free, at your local courthouse in most states."

Moreover, "Voter registration forms, in some states, require your social security number, birth date, and driver's license number, as well as your home address and phone number." Anderberg resides in Oregon and information access seems to vary somewhat from state to state. For example, California, Illinois, Florida, Indiana, Maine, Massachusetts, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Washington state have passed confidentiality laws regarding the voter information of victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, or stalking.

Of course voter lists are not the only easy source of personal information offered by government sources. How easy is it to look up information on people? One commentator on Anderberg's article wrote, "I live in Houston, TX, and the Harris County Tax Assessor-Collector's office here has a web site where you can look up voter info by name, address or certificate number. I have used this for two purposes: First, just for fun, I would look up addresses like those of my former residence (where some of my old roommates still live) and my current apartment (I live in a small complex and am friendly with a number of my neighbors). It was mostly just to see who wasn't registered yet and pester them sometime before the registration deadline (especially those who I've talked specifically about the upcoming election with). I don't know if I'll even actually do that, though. It was also interesting and fun (though unnecessary) to see what my neighbors' ages were, since their birthdates were up there (though not their SSN, nor phone number, nor their driver's license number). I've used it for a second, more serious reason, however, as well. When my boyfriend confided in me that his older brother-in-law had been coercing and forcing him into sex for several years, I decided to call CPS to tell them I was worried about the other young people around this rapist..."

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