The following Op-Ed was submitted by Joseph Gish. Note: Op-Eds submitted by candidates do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of those at the Idaho Dispatch.
Representative Priscilla Giddings is sponsoring a bill, H694, that addresses how the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare denies Public Record Requests, for public information used to maintain the accuracy of state’s voter registration lists, by adding exempt information to public information and then classifying all the information as an exempt “vital statistic”.
H694 is not likely to get many media headlines, but Idaho voters who want accurate voter rolls and Transparent and Ethical Government should follow this bill and make a note of the Idaho legislators who vote against it, because the ONLY reason to oppose this bill is the belief the public cannot be trusted with public information.
Idaho State Statue 34-433 requires the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare (IDHW) to furnish a monthly list of deceased Idahoans to the Secretary of State who sorts the list by county and then forwards it to the county clerks who use it to cancel deceased residents from the voter registration rolls. Note that the statute below specifies the precise information that is to be supplied to the Secretary of State in the IDHW report (underlined). All the same information listed in this statute is publicly available in the voter registration list.
“34-433. MONTHLY CORRECTION OF ELECTION REGISTER FROM REPORTED DEATHS.
The state board of health [and welfare]shall, on or about the 25th day of each month, furnish to the secretary of state a listing showing the name, age, county of residence and residence address of each Idaho resident who has died during the preceding month. The secretary of state shall sort this list by county and furnish a copy of same to each county clerk.
Each county clerk shall immediately cancel all registrations of individuals reported as deceased by the state board of health [and welfare] in the board’s report to the secretary of state.”
Furthermore, the National Voter Registration Act of 1993 Statute 107 Section 8(i) requires the state “shall make available … all records … ensuring the accuracy and currency of official lists of eligible voters…”
In December of 2021 the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare denied a Public Record Request of this monthly list of deceased Idahoans citing “Denial Code 74-106(4)(e) Vital statistics”. In other words the IDHW information custodian, in violation of the National Voter Registration Act of 1993, are classifying the same data included in the publicly available voter registration list as an exempt “vital statistic”, which covers such things as birth certificates, death certificates, adoption papers, etc. Appealing this denial requires a citizen to hire a lawyer and effectively sue their government in district court.
Representative Giddings exposed what is really going one behind the scenes as she promoted H694 in the committee hearings required to get the bill to a floor vote in the House. Apparently IDHW has added the deceased resident’s date of birth and partial social security number to the list of information specified in the statute. The county clerks use this information to ensure they are cancelling the correct person from the voter registration list. This added information is considered Personally Identifiable Information (PII) and exempt from public disclosure. Although there is a valid reason for this information to be supplied to the county clerks, the IDHW is violating the National Voter Registration Act of 1993 and Idaho Statute by adding this exempt information and then denying the public information they just “contaminated” with exempt PII.
Idaho Statute 34-431 makes Idaho voters an integral part of maintaining the accuracy of the voter registration list by empowering us to challenge invalid registrations. Voters are currently finding and challenging Idaho residents that have been deceased for years who are still on the voter rolls. The Idaho Department of Health and Welfare denying this public record interferes with the voter’s role in helping maintain the accuracy of our state’s voter registration list by denying them the right to crosscheck this list against current voter registrations.
There is also a more dangerous aspect to how the IDHW is denying Idahoans public information. Imagine the precedent set by allowing any public official to hide embarrassing or politically damaging public information by simply adding exempt information to it and then asserting all the information is exempt.
H694 simply requires the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare to create a “County Clerk” version of the monthly deceased residents list that contains the exempt PII they need to accurately maintain the voter registration list, as well as a “Public” version of the list that does not contain the added exempt PII. Any legislator voting against this bill simply does not want citizens to have access to public data that will allow them to challenge the accuracy of the voter registration list by cross checking that deceased Idahoans have been removed.
Please follow H694 and make a note of any legislator that votes against it, because those legislators DO NOT support accurate voter registrations or Transparent and Ethical Government.
By Joseph Gish
Tags: Elections, HB 694, Joe Gish, Priscilla Giddings