Condos Won't Release Voter Info To Feds But Most Is Readily Available In Vermont

Jul 12, 2017

Secretary of State Jim Condos says that for now he won't send any Vermont voter information to the Presidential Election Integrity Commission.

The panel is investigating unsubstantiated allegations of massive voter fraud during the 2016 presidential election.

But as the controversy over this issue continues, the state's voter database is still available to any citizen. And it's routinely used by Vermont's political parties in local and state elections.

Condos believes providing the presidential commission with any voter information could violate several state laws and he's asked Attorney General T.J. Donovan to investigate this situation.

The commission wants the names of voters, their addresses, their date of birth, their driver's license number, and the last four digits of their Social Security number.

Condos says he will not send the personal identifying information to the commission under any circumstances and he's withholding the names and addresses of voters until the legal issues have been resolved.

"My goal would be not to send any information, that would be my approach." —Secretary of State Jim Condos

"My goal would be not to send any information,” said Condos. “That would be my approach."  

But the statewide voter checklist and those used at the local level are considered public documents. These lists include the names of voters, where they live, and which elections they voted in.

Condos says anyone can receive this information as long as they sign an agreement form.

"When you want the entire checklist there's an affidavit that must be signed that says you can't use it for commercial purposes,” said Condos.  

But Condos says political parties and candidates are exempt from this provision.  They're free to use this information, even if they use the voter lists to fundraise.

"I would just say political parties are not a profit-making company,” said Condos. “It's not a corporation from that stand point." 

"You have to make sure you're tracking your voters and your supporters." —Republican Party executive director Jeff Bartley discussing how his organization uses voter check lists

Jeff Bartley is the executive director of the Vermont Republican Party. He says the voter checklist information is critical to help his party identify likely voters.

"In this day and age you can't win an election just by going door to door with a palm card and put on a smiley face and hope that you win. You have to make sure you're tracking your voters and your supporters,” said Bartley. “Together we work with the candidates and our local parties and grassroots organizations to turn out our voters."  

Conor Casey is the executive director of the state's Democratic party. He says losing the exemption would be bad for the political process in Vermont.

"It would be chilling for public discourse in our state,” said Casey. “I think communities used to come together, they used to have conversations about candidates, and as a result, I think they have all the information they need to make an intelligent decision before they vote on candidates."  

Secretary Condos thinks it would be helpful for lawmakers to review the entire issue of public access to voter checklists to determine what information should be made available to the public and what should not.

"It varies from state to state, some states say absolutely not, no public file, others will give almost everything but the sensitive information,” said Condos. “So I think it will take some work by the Legislature to look at it and determine if they want to change it and how they want to change it."

John Odum is Montpelier's city clerk. He says he understands the privacy concerns that are associated with the voter checklist being considered a public document. But he thinks it would be a big mistake to limit access to this information.

"Privacy is a diminishing commodity in this day and age,” said Odum. “It [the check list] is also a pretty fundamental public document on which our democracies are based; that's not something you want to keep in the dark from people."     

Condos says he's written the presidential commission with questions about their effort to create a national voter check list but he says he's yet to hear back from the panel.