Here’s a quick rundown of the situation: a non-profit wants to increase voter turnout by telling neighbors who voted in which election. Studies show that it would work. Turns out, only candidates and parties can legally get access to that information (the reality is another thing…). Virginia’s State Board of Elections tells the non profit to stop and they do. Then the non-profit sues b/c the voter history list should be open to all or closed to all.
Two weeks ago the lawsuit was dismissed in the Richmond Circuit Court. According to Bill Sizemore of the Pilot, a settlement was reached, though the group promised to re-file the suit if the law wasn’t changed to allow wider access to the information.
But there’s no guarantee that the changes to the statute will include wider access to the list. A legislative subcommittee has recommended that the list be closed to everyone, according to the Times-Dispatch’s Tyler Whitely. A list closed to everyone means that even candidates wouldn’t have access to a voter’s history either.
To legislators who want to save stamps or avoid knocking on the doors of their unpersuadable neighbors – this would be a huge problem. Campaigns already cost plenty, and according to some legislators this would drive up the cost of their races.
On the flip side of candidate convenience is voter privacy. While at first blush this may sound like the fox guarding the hen house, remember there are plenty of privacy advocates in the Virginia legislature who don’t have regular, expensive races to keep their seats.
The legislative session should end soon, so we’ll have an answer about what the elected officials think on this issue. The next move will be the Know Campaign’s.
Brian Cannon is President of the William & Mary Election Law Society