Why I don’t vote, and why you should stop trying to get me to.

With the mid term elections approaching I’ve had several friends on Facebook recently praising automatic voter registration with Driver License applications/renewals and encouraging people to get registered to vote and get your voice out there. For some of us it’s not that simple. What people fail to realize often times is that voting records are public. The moment you register to vote your name, residential & mailing addresses, telephone number if provided, etc. all become public record. In Colorado in particular, the State where I reside, there is a website that updates and provides current registered voter information to the public.

For victims of stalking such as myself, domestic violence and sexual abuse victims and others the cost to vote is too high. There are many stories about victims being found through voter registration records. Sure, in Colorado you can pay $5 to keep your address confidential pursuant to C.R.S. 24–72–204 (3.5), but let’s examine that statute:

( c )The custodian of any records described in paragraph (a) of this subsection (3.5) that concern an individual who has made a request of confidentiality pursuant to this subsection (3.5) and paid any required processing fee shall deny the right of inspection of the individual’s address contained in such records on the ground that disclosure would be contrary to the public interest; except that such custodian shall allow the inspection of such records by.. any individual employed by one of the following entities..:
(I) A criminal justice agency, as defined by section 24–72–302(3) ;

(II) An agency of the United States, the state of Colorado, or of any political subdivision or authority thereof;

(III) A person required to obtain such individual’s address in order to comply with federal or state law or regulations adopted pursuant thereto;

(IV) An insurance company which has a valid certificate of authority to transact insurance business in Colorado as required in section 10–3–105(1), C.R.S .;

(V) A collection agency which has a valid license as required by section 12–14–115(1), C.R.S .;

(VI) A supervised lender licensed pursuant to section 5–1–301(46), C.R.S .;

(VII) A bank as defined in section 11–101–401(5), C.R.S ., a trust company as defined in section 11–109–101(11), C.R.S ., a credit union as defined in section 11–30–101(1), C.R.S ., a domestic savings and loan association as defined in section 11–40–102(5), C.R.S ., a foreign savings and loan association as defined in section 11–40–102(8), C.R.S ., or a broker-dealer as defined in section 11–51–201(2), C.R.S.;

(VIII) An attorney licensed to practice law in Colorado or his representative authorized in writing to inspect such records on behalf of the attorney;

(IX) A manufacturer of any vehicle required to be registered pursuant to the provisions of article 3 of title 42, C.R.S., or a designated agent of such manufacturer. Such inspection shall be allowed only for the purpose of identifying, locating, and notifying the registered owners of such vehicles in the event of a product recall or product advisory and may also be allowed for statistical purposes where such address is not disclosed by such manufacturer or designated agent. No person who obtains the address of an individual pursuant to this subparagraph (IX) shall disclose such information, except as necessary to accomplish said purposes.

As seen above there are many 3rd party places that can obtain your address simply by virtue of their business, and employees at these places can do so unilaterally. Furthermore the statute only makes your address private, your county, voter precinct, etc are not confidential and available to anyone, so basically the neighborhood you live in is still available to anyone as well as any other information you voluntarily provide like your phone number.

But wait, Colorado offers another option for victims who qualify for the Address Confidentiality Program. This statute promises to make the entire voter record confidential. However in practice this has failed, for instance this record on coloradovoters.info shows what an ACP voter record looks like. While the name shows ACP and a number which is the ACP participant’s participant number within the program, the voter can be deanonymized as the mailing address, in this case 1001 East 62nd Ave #5, is tied to a specific participant or their family within the program. This is a mailing address only, but it does help deanonymize WHO the voter record is about. Furthermore the county even messed up and put this individual’s phone number in the record. As a result this individual can be deanonymized and then using voter precinct information their neighborhood can be unmasked, this would be very valuable information to a stalker.

In sum, voting is a great right and one that needs to be exercised, however until States or the Federal government start taking confidentiality of voters seriously, some of us value our lives over which politicians will run our lives.