Fraud prevention scrutinized

Proposed legislation to guard against identity fraud in the voter registration process may need some further tightening, members of a state House panel said Wednesday.

The legislation 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. Penalties would increase on subsequent violations.

State Rep. Jared Brossett, D-New Orleans, wondered whether the proposal was “too stringent.”

But others said the state elections division should look at not just the reproduction of the application.

State Rep. Greg Miller, R-Norco, asked about a person writing down information from the application that could be used in identity theft, or someone copying a form that is filled out but doesn’t have the individual’s signature.

Elections Commissioner Angie Rogers said other states have adopted legislation to try to prevent identify theft. She said her agency is reviewing what other states are doing.

Secretary of State Tom Schedler said the proposal could be amended if the review shows that Louisiana is out of line with other states. He called the legislation a “sign of the times.”

“A lot of us don’t think about the information we are giving,” Schedler said. “If I want to go steal your identity, all I have to do is go set up a table somewhere and register people to vote.”

Someone could get the voter registration information and use the personal information for fraudulent purposes, Schedler said.

“It could happen ... knock on wood it hasn’t,” Schedler said. “You talk about something that would suppress voter registration.”

Director of Security and Elections Compliance Fred Gwin said his shop has interviewed people who registered to vote and the registrars of voters have no record of it being filed.

“We asked them who were the people taking the registration. They had never seen them before. They had completed the form with all the personal identification,” Gwin said.

“We have also interviewed people working in organizations that do voter registration drives. They regularly copy and retain (the forms). ... What happens when such organizations dissolve?” he asked.

The proposed legislation originally targeted those who perform voter registration drives but the State Board of Election Supervisors voted to expand it to cover reproduction of the voter registration application by anyone.