You are the owner of this article.

GUEST EDITORIAL: Voter data collection issue not cut and dried

  • ()
The Associated Press

Georgians should be concerned about efforts by the Trump administration to create a national electronic database of voters, presumably to protect the nation against widespread voter fraud.

While the sanctity of the ballot box and the one-man, one-vote concept merit protection, that’s a job that’s best left to the individual states, not Washington. In the federal government’s hands, the effort to collect personal information — including partial Social Security numbers — from millions of U.S. voters smacks of Big Brother at its worst.

It’s no wonder that the ACLU of Georgia decided last Friday that it will be closely monitoring the response of Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp to the request for extensive voter information from President Trump’s commission on election integrity.

That commission, along with the U.S. Justice Department, wants material about how Georgia removes voters who should no longer be eligible to vote from its rolls.

That’s probably a question that many Georgians, who are concerned about the integrity of the electoral process, would like answered.

But it’s more properly answered by those who are closer to the voters — local and state registrars and boards of elections — not bureaucrats in far-away Washington.

Indeed, comparing names and addresses and signatures of registered voters is a time-consuming and laborious process, accuracy would seem to suffer if the work was not done by those who were closest to the scene.

In short, when questions of voter fraud arise, it should be handled as a local and state matter. If local and state officials aren’t up to the job, get new ones.

So far, there has been no indication that Mr. Kemp, or any of Georgia’s local election officials or registrars, have fallen down on the job and need help from Washington.

Sean Young, the ACLU’s legal director, said his group’s interest stems from its intent to prevent Mr. Kemp from sending information to Washington that is required to be kept private under Georgia law.

Mr. Young is right on that count. While the liberal-leaning ACLU is no friend of Republican office-holders like Mr. Trump or Mr. Kemp, Georgia officials have no business ignoring state law to satisfy an edict from Washington.

But it’s important to point out that some information the Trump commission is seeking from all 50 states is already available in Georgia under this state’s public information laws. In this instance, the request for this same information is not odious and Mr. Kemp can easily comply.

In fact, Georgia officials have said some — but not all — of the information requested by Trump’s voter fraud panel is already publicly available under state law for a standard fee of $250. They have requested payment of that fee before the state will process the request, which is only proper.

State law allows information such as voter names, addresses, race and gender, among other data points, to be included on the list.

Georgia will not share information considered private under state law such as registered voters’ driver’s license numbers and Social Security numbers. That’s as it should be. In the wrong hands, such data can ruin lives and destroy an individual’s right to privacy. That’s especially true given the millions of dollars being spent to influence elections.

Mr. Kemp cannot pick and choose who receives public information. It must be made available to anyone who asks. Otherwise, he could be in violation of state law and would merit punishment.

At the same time, much of this information about Georgia voters, like party affiliation, is already available to candidates for elective offices and their political operatives. That’s how they know where to mail their political cards and other propaganda. It’s not a state secret.

If anything, all this hoopla from the ACLU and related groups is a sign that the next race for Georgia’s governor is starting early and that some Democratic-leaning groups are already looking for ways to pile on Mr. Kemp.

Mr. Kemp has nothing to worry about as long as he just does his job. Release the public information. But keep the private data, private.

Don’t invade the privacy of Georgia’s voters. Tell Big Brother to take a hike.