Panel’s proposals protect voters from identity theft

The State Board of Election Supervisors on Wednesday recommended changes in state election laws, including a number aimed at the protection of a voter’s personal information.

One of the proposals would make it a felony to copy or otherwise reproduce a completed voter registration application. The change would protect the confidentiality of such information as the individual’s full date of birth and Social Security number, which could be used for fraudulent purposes.

Violators would be subject to a fine of up to $2,000 or up to two years in jail or both on a first offense.

The ban on copying originally targeted those conducting voter registration drives.

But the board decided to expand it at the suggestion of panel member Lt. Gov. Jay Dardenne.

“I don’t know why you wouldn’t make that applicable to any registration form. We still don’t want them copying it no matter whether it’s through a drive or not,” Dardenne said.

Another proposal would require poll workers to sign affidavits that information contained in the precinct register will not be disclosed.

The precinct register contains such information as whether a voter needs assistance, the date of birth of the voter and the mother’s maiden name of the voter. The information could be used in identity theft.

The elections board also voted to keep text message numbers of registered voters in the possession of the secretary of state’s office confidential. Voters have provided the numbers so they can receive election updates.

The proposals are among three dozen election law changes that the board endorsed. Most of them are technical and generally noncontroversial. The changes are expected to be included in an omnibus bill that will be considered in the legislative session that opens April 8.

The proposed changes also include:

Deleting a requirement that the names of inactive voters be published in each parish journal 90 days before a federal primary election.

Elections attorney Merietta Norton said publication costs are high and the names of inactive voters are available on the secretary of state’s website, which is updated daily.

Norton said publication costs ran $200,000 in 2010 and $375,000 in 2008.

Requiring a candidate to file a new notice of candidacy and pay an additional qualifying fee if they want to make changes in the original notice during the qualifying period. The only exception would be if a candidate is deployed overseas in the U.S. armed forces.

Deleting the requirement to refund candidate qualifying fees for those who drop out prior to the 56th day before the election.

Norton said 68 candidates withdrew in 2011 with 39 receiving refund checks. In 2012, there were 86 candidates who withdrew of which 56 received refunds, she said.

“This creates a lot of confusion among the candidates,” Norton said.

Requiring two poll commissioners to write down the names of those voting on election day as a double check system.

“It creates a problem when the poll list doesn’t match up with the precinct register,” Norton said.