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Voter Privacy in the Digital Age


  1. Key findings and recommendations

  2. Introduction

  3. Trends underway

  4. Findings

  5. Discussion of findings

  6. Recommendations

  7. Conclusion

  8. Endnotes

  9. Appendix (Charts and Graphs)


A PDF version of the Voter Privacy Study is also available (requires Adobe Acrobat Reader).

About this study

The California Voter Foundation (CVF) conducted a nationwide, state-by-state survey on voter registration data and the privacy implications of data-gathering and dissemination practices. CVF’s goals with this project are to better inform public policy discussions about voter registration data and privacy, to educate the public about how voter registration data is currently being used, and to help develop policy solutions that address voter privacy in the digital age.

The California Voter Foundation and a team of graduate and law students from UC Berkeley researched the voter registration laws, forms, and data dissemination practices of all 50 states plus the District of Columbia. Research methods included: gathering and reviewing all state voter registration forms; researching state registration laws and regulations; and conducting interviews with election agency staff. The findings in this study are based on information collected during the Spring of 2002 and account for the registration forms, practices and laws as they existed at that time


“Voter Privacy in the Digital Age” is co-authored by Kim Alexander and Keith Mills, and was funded with a grant from the Wallace Alexander Gerbode Foundation. Research assistance was provided by Shalu Narula and Catherine Jesserand through the Samuelson Center for Law, Technology and Public Policy at the University of California, Berkeley. The authors are grateful to numerous colleagues and election administrators for their assistance in researching and developing this study. Please see the “Endnotes” section for a list of the people and resources consulted for this study.

Authors’ Note

The California Voter Foundation and the authors of this study are deeply committed to improving voter participation. This study reveals many new findings about voter registration data gathering and dissemination practices that raise important questions and concerns about how to protect voter privacy in the digital age. It is not our goal to be alarmist or deter people from wanting to register to vote, but rather to be truthful with the public. Although raising awareness of voter data practices may in fact facilitate even greater access to voter data, it is our belief that the public’s interest is best served in a democratic society by shining a light on an issue rather than by keeping the public in the dark. We hope this study facilitates a meaningful public discussion about the need to address new challenges to voter privacy in the digital age.

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This page was first published on June 9, 2004 | Last updated on October 13, 2018
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