8

A few days ago, I posted this question on the Politics Stack Exchange I am modifying and reposting it here in the hope of receiving a more substantial answer.

In the United States, who (individual, group of individuals, political party) has access to state voter lists that indicate whether or not the given registered voters had voted in the last general election?

If an individual has such a right, what is the most expedient way of gaining access to these records, with the objective being to determine who among the registered voters actually voted in the last election?

5
  • 3
    That depends on the state. That means there are 50 answers.
    – Trish
    Dec 22 '20 at 15:31
  • Genuine question: would Washington DC make it 51? ETA - And do ex-pats and/or overseas territories feature on these voter lists?
    – Rock Ape
    Dec 22 '20 at 16:36
  • 2
    Overseas voters are typically associated with the last state the last US voting district they lived in; it can be more complicated for military voters. Dec 22 '20 at 21:59
  • Would American/European dual citizens be able to request their voter information under GDPR? Also, if any states are recording the identities of who votes and who didn't, then couldn't that potentially lead to voter suppression, or its converse ("We'll pay you $X if you can prove you voted")?
    – nick012000
    Dec 23 '20 at 13:42
  • 1
    @nick012000 that should probably be a separate question or indeed two questions. But on the second one, updated voter lists with information on who voted are typically not available until several months after an election, long after results are final, so I think a scheme to pay votes at that point would be unlikely. Dec 23 '20 at 16:51
22

In most US states, anyone can buy such lists, covering either the whole state or a specific municipality or election district. Political campaigns routinely buy such lists and use them to organize door-to-door campaigning, as well as postal appeals.

Some years ago I was a (losing) candidate for local office in NJ. I bought such a list covering the township I was running in. It showed each voter's name, address, age, party of registration, if any, and which of the last several elections the person had voted in. I think the lists were available from the board of elections, and local lists from municipal clerks. Exact procedures no doubt differ from state to state, as will costs. At that time lists were available in electronic and paper formats.

Purchasers had to sign an agreement not to use the information for commercial marketing, as I recall.

Updated lists including data from the latest election are not usually available at once, but are available long before the next general election.

1
  • 1
    Yeah, and just to add to this, if you don't want to have to deal with all the different jurisdictions to get national data, you can buy it en mass from L2: l2political.com/our-data , which has some additional benefits (added data), though it can be quite expensive that way
    – duckmayr
    Dec 23 '20 at 18:44
5

In the US it is up to individual states to manage the voting system for their own states (it is not a function of the Federal Government), so the exact rules vary by state. So there can be no one answer to the question as posed.

For the state of Oklahoma (where I live) this information is essentially a matter of public record, and is available for free from the state. If you need them to give you a hardcopy, they will charge a fee for making that.

Voter registration records include voters' name, address, date of birth, political affiliation, voter ID number, precinct and voting history, technology center district, school district and municipality. Voter registration records do not include full or partial Social Security numbers, driver's license numbers, telephone numbers, e-mail addresses or voters' race, color, gender or ethnic origin.

By "voting history", they mean which elections each voter has voted in. They of course have no record of what the person voted for. One can make an educated guess based on their party registration, or by cross-referencing from information about that person in other available databases, but that's just a guess.

I don't believe Oklahoma is doing anything deeply unusual here, so I highly suspect similar info is available to the general public in most other states as well. This is how 3rd-party voter registration challenges and purge efforts are made.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.