State Law Prevents Utah Officials from Sharing Voter Data, Civic Groups Say in New Lawsuit

July 26, 2017

Salt Lake City – The Lieutenant Governor of Utah would be violating state law if he hands over voter data to the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity, the League of Women Voters of Utah and the League of United Latin American Citizens of Utah (LULAC Utah) argued in a lawsuit filed today.

Spencer Cox, whose office oversees elections in Utah, said in a statement responding to the commission’s request that state law “requires voter registration records be public documents that can be obtained by any person or entity who submits an appropriate records request.” But plaintiffs argue doing so would be illegal without the commission meeting conditions carefully stipulated under the state’s Government Records Access and Management Act. The law imposes complete privacy on voter social security numbers, and requires individuals or entities to adhere to specific guidelines about how other personal information will be used. Those guidelines cannot be honored if the information is given over to the commission as has been requested.

The two groups and two individual plaintiffs filing suit are represented by the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law, Kirkland and Ellis LLP, and David R. Irvine and Janet Jenson, attorneys from Salt Lake City.

“This commission’s request for voter data has been questionable from the get-go,” said Catherine Weller, co-president of the League of Women Voters of Utah. “Utahns deserve nothing less than to have their personal information protected as is clearly outlined under state law, so they can participate in free and fair elections in the future.”   

“Utahns value our privacy, and this request did not sit well with many voters in our state,” said Antonella Packard, State Director of LULAC Utah. “The fraud commission must follow all relevant procedures under state law, like any other entity trying to obtain voter information.”

“Utah law has very strict guidelines on how voter data must be safeguarded,” said Myrna Pérez, deputy director of the Brennan Center’s Democracy Program. “The lieutenant governor’s willingness to hand over information with no reference to the protections his state provides is extremely concerning.” 

The suit comes shortly after a federal judge in Washington, D.C., declined to bar states from sharing data with Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, the panel’s vice-chair who wrote the initial request asking for information. Kobach had previously asked states to withhold their data until the court issued a ruling. It’s the latest in a series of legal challenges to Kobach’s letter and the commission’s work, and follows other lawsuits by the Brennan Center, and Kirkland and Ellis LLP, in Indiana and Texas.

Lean more about the “Election Integrity” commission on the Brennan Center’s resource page here.

For more information or to schedule an interview with a Brennan Center expert, please contact Blaire Perel at perelb@brennan.law.nyu.edu or 646-925-8734. For the League of Women Voters of Utah, contact lwvutah@gmail.com or 801-272-8683. And for LULAC Utah, contact Antonella Packard at lulacutah@gmail.com.

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