Secretary of the State Denise Merrill.
Secretary of the State Denise Merrill.

Are people wary about registering to vote for fear of identity theft? Do some victims of domestic violence refuse to register again once they move to escape an abuser?

Secretary of the State Denise Merrill raised those concerns Wednesday as she outlined a proposal for narrowing the information available in the state’s electronic voter database, barring its use for commercial purposes, and providing special protections for abuse survivors.

“My concern is that when people register to vote, they should only be concerned with their voting and which candidates they are going to choose and how they are going to vote,” Merrill said. “They shouldn’t have to worry that their personal information is being compromised.”

Merrill said her proposal would tread lightly on the state’s Freedom of Information law. Abuse survivors could seek to keep their home addresses secret, a protection now afforded to law-enforcement officers and judicial officials.

To discourage identity theft, the public portions of the database no longer would have the full data of birth. Social Security and driver license numbers now collected when people register already are not included in the voter file.

Merrill said the controversy over a White House voter fraud commission, as well as periodic cases of data breaches, have generally made voters more sensitive to providing personal data to electronic databases.

“I think people are now aware that the voter file is another one of those databases that is open to the public,” Merrill said.

Merrill was one of many state officials who refused to provide voter files to the White House commission, which was disbanded last month. The commission had sought voluminous information on voters: names, addresses, dates of birth, political affiliations and the last four digits of Social Security numbers, along with voting history.

Karen Jarmoc, the president of the Connecticut Coalition Against Domestic Violence, applauded Merrill’s proposal to allow domestic violence survivors to keep their addresses private.

“We’re very supportive of it,” Jarmoc said. “You can imagine when you are a victim of domestic violence, your strategies to stay safe can be challenging.”

Mark is the Capitol Bureau Chief and a co-founder of CT Mirror. He is a frequent contributor to WNPR, a former state politics writer for The Hartford Courant and Journal Inquirer, and contributor for The New York Times.

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