Confidentiality requests increase after call for voter info

Requests edge up in Montezuma, spike in La Plata

Secretary of State Wayne Williams held a news conference July 5 to address concerns about his office’s decision to provide voter information to the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity. Colorado intends to provide publicly available information to the commission, which includes names, addresses and party affiliation, but not protected information such as Social Security numbers or complete dates of birth. Enlargephoto

Luke Perkins/Durango Herald

Secretary of State Wayne Williams held a news conference July 5 to address concerns about his office’s decision to provide voter information to the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity. Colorado intends to provide publicly available information to the commission, which includes names, addresses and party affiliation, but not protected information such as Social Security numbers or complete dates of birth.

DENVER – Enrollment in Colorado’s confidential voter program has nearly tripled in La Plata County since Secretary of State Wayne Williams announced Colorado would provide some publicly available voter information to a federal panel investigating voter fraud.

Since July 1, 49 people have requested to be placed in Colorado’s confidential voter program, said Tiffany Parker, La Plata County clerk and recorder.

Before these requests, the county had 26 confidential voters, she said.

The confidential program is designed to protect publicly available information – such as address, year of birth or party affiliation – of people who could be “exposed to criminal harassment ... or otherwise be in danger of bodily harm,” according to the Colorado Revised Statutes.

Williams said this program is in place primarily to protect victims of domestic violence and law enforcement officials, particularly undercover officers, and not everyone is eligible for it.

“‘I just don’t want anybody to know’ is not a sufficient reason under the existing Colorado law, which I did not write, and which I must follow,” Williams told the press last week.

People on this list have their information redacted from public records requests.

Montezuma County has also seen additional requests to be placed in the confidential voter program but to a lesser degree, said Kim Parcell, Montezuma County clerk and recorder.

“I wouldn’t say there have been an abundance, but there’s been a few,” Parcell said.

According to the Secretary of State’s Office, from June 28 to July 13, 3,394 voters throughout the state have withdrawn their voter registration. There are 3,726,193 registered voters in Colorado, so that represents less than one tenth of 1 percent. In that same period, 182 voters have filed affidavits for confidentiality.

“It’s my hope that folks who withdrew their registration will re-register, particularly once they realize that no confidential information will be provided and that the parties and presidential candidates already have the same publicly available information from the 2016 election cycle,” Williams said Friday.

To apply for confidentiality, voters must fill out an affidavit under penalty of perjury that they believe their information needs to be protected and pay a $5 fee.

Confidentiality forms are available at county clerk and recorder’s offices in La Plata and Montezuma counties or online through the Colorado Division of Central Services.

According to Colorado law, perjuring the affidavit is a Class 1 misdemeanor, which can carry six to 18 months in jail and fines ranging from $500 to $5,000.

In addition to increased requests for confidentiality, the number of voters asking to be taken off the registry in La Plata County has gone up.

Between Jan. 1 and June 30, 17 residents of La Plata County requested to be removed from the voter registry, and since July 1, an additional 16 have been removed, Parker said.

“It’s very unfortunate that that’s occurring, I hate to see that,” she said.

If voters are not listed on the registry, they will not receive ballots for the November election, she said.

Because 2017 is an off year, voters might not be as tuned into what is on the ballot, but there are local elections occurring that will affect them.

“I’d just hate for people to give up their right to vote because they don’t want their information, which has already been public for years, to go out,” Parker said.

No one in Montezuma County has requested to be removed from the voter registry, Parcell said.

Last month, the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity, which was created in May by an executive order from President Donald Trump, requested voter information and input on a series of questions about election integrity from all 50 states.

The commission has been connected to Trump’s claim that millions of fraudulent ballots caused him to lose the popular vote to Democrat Hillary Clinton. No evidence of voter fraud has been confirmed.

The information requested included voter names, addresses, party affiliation (if any), voting history – which is strictly what years a voter has cast a ballot and not who was voted for – and, if available under state law, Social Security numbers and dates of birth.

Social Security numbers and dates of birth are confidential under Colorado law and will not be provided to the federal panel.

The advisory commission placed a July 14 deadline on this request, but it has been put on hold because of a lawsuit filed by the Electronic Privacy Information Center.

The lawsuit was filed over concerns that voter privacy rights were being violated, personal information would be sent to an unsecure website and private information, such as partial Social Security numbers and full dates of birth, would be published.

Election officials have been told to hold off on providing the information requested until the lawsuit has been resolved, but according to Parker, clerks are providing Williams’ office with voter information by 8 a.m. Friday.

lperkins@durangoherald.com