It can be interesting what politicians believe to be valid explanations. I’m thinking of this, from a press release put out by Rhode Island Secretary of State Nellie Gorbea:
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.
One almost has to admire how slyly this misses the point. That’s 0.5% of voters in RI alone. How many Rhode Island voters share a name and birth year with other voters across the country. That’s a key question.
Even putting that aside, though, the Providence Journal points out that this percentage means there are around 4,000 Rhode Islanders who have the same name and birth year. Anybody from Rhode Island or out of state who would like to check on those 4,000 folks would have to travel to the Secretary of State’s office and sit at a special terminal with who-knows-what actual functionality. (Will it be able to print or save files to thumb drives?) Surely Gorbea understands that every step that people are required to take means significantly fewer will do them. This applies to an extra click on the Internet, let alone traveling to a special computer somewhere.
If her goal were really to protect voters from identity theft, Gorbea had much better ways of using the “extra effort” standard. Right now, people have to request this information. That alone will scare off many potential scammers. Legislation could have further made people liable if it could be shown that their use of the information facilitated identity theft, although that might face constitutional challenge.
Most of all — it’s worth repeating — if Gorbea took this action in the public interest, she wouldn’t have done it quietly, but would have proclaimed it widely and visibly as a way in which she was protecting Rhode Islanders.