As Secretary of State, I have made government accountability and transparency a hallmark of my administration. The work we have done to modernize elections has greatly improved the quality of the information entrusted to my office by voters. Unfortunately, we live in a technological era characterized by the rapid erosion of personal privacy and the ever-increasing risk of cyber crimes and identity theft.
The decision to provide only year of birth information in the bulk download of the voter registration database - consisting of more than 790,000 voter records - was made to protect Rhode Islanders from the possibility of identity theft. Nothing in Rhode Island law requires inclusion of any birth date information, or maintenance and delivery of the database in an electronic and searchable form.
The argument that the omission of birth day and month information could encumber a third-party analysis of the voter registration database is unfounded. In fact, less than 0.5% of the roughly 790,000 voter records share the same full name and year of birth.
Current Rhode Island law provides for visual inspection of voter information at local boards of canvassers. Thus, we are providing a public terminal, available at the Department of State's Elections Division, that will allow any person to search the full voter file, including full dates of birth, and run related queries during regular office hours.
It is my intention over the next term to modernize Rhode Island's election laws to reflect today's technological landscape including a full review of what data and information is publicly available. This legislative process will include ample opportunity for public input. Until those laws are changed, my office will continue to provide only year of birth information in the bulk delivery of our voter file.
-Secretary of State Nellie M. Gorbea