Registered to Vote In NC? Lots of Info About You Easily Accessible Through Board of Elections Site

Nov 2, 2016

As WFAE's Michael Tomsic reported in this story on an NAACP federal lawsuit, a lot of personal information is available through the state Board of Elections website.

"We are to our knowledge, from every state we have checked, we have been the easiest to access information,” says Josh Lawson, the general counsel for the state Board of Elections. “We’re talking about a centralized repository where more than 6.7 million people have addresses listed online."

That repository also includes information about a voter’s race, how long a person has been registered to vote and voting participation history – including in which primaries a person voted whether registered with a party, or as unaffiliated.

It used to be that people had to go to the courthouse to get voter registration information. Lawson says that changed in 2008, when it all went online. The most complaints his office receives focus on the listing of addresses.

"We have had requests in last three months from federal elected representative, judges, individual citizens, and journalists - all shocked to learn that their information is so easily and readily available online and for good reasons sought some type of review of whether this is something we will continue to enforce," Lawson says.       

The answer in most cases is yes, because that’s the law. Victims of violence are the exception. They can apply for confidentiality through the attorney general’s office.

Lawson says any changes have to come from the General Assembly, but he doesn’t see that happening anytime soon. He says lawmakers like having all the information easily accessible.

"I think the utility of that information derives principally from its affects on legislative redistricting, a review of who is and who is not calling their legislators so they can prioritize callbacks, things of that nature."

And whenever the Board of Elections’ server goes down, Lawson says he typically hears from two groups concerned about the problem: Representatives of legislative offices, and journalists.