March 16, 1998 98-R-0440
FROM: Mary M. Janicki, Principal Analyst
RE: Social Security Numbers and Voter Registration
You asked for the reasons and legislative intent in enacting the law requesting people registering to vote to provide their Social Security numbers (SSNs).
The General Assembly passed legislation in 1993 requesting those who register to vote to supply their SSNs. The proposal originated with requests over the years from Secretary of the State Pauline R. Kezer who had been trying to develop a statewide computerized voter registry list. The numbers serve as an individual identifier that election officials use to eliminate duplicate voter registrations within a town and across the state. Because legislators raised privacy concerns, the 1993 law includes provisions that (1) make providing the number voluntary and (2) prohibit an official from disclosing a SSN to the public.
Over several legislative sessions, the secretary of the state proposed legislation to provide a space on the voter registration form for a voter's Social Security number. As the secretary moved in the direction of creating a statewide computerized voter registry, she viewed the number as a single, common, individual identifier that could be used to spot a person registered to vote in more than one town. When this happens, the secretary's office is authorized to make a list of the possible duplications and send it to the appropriate towns. The registrars of voters who receive the list can investigate further and notify anyone who appears to have subsequently registered in another town that he is ineligible to remain on the town's voter registry list unless he can establish within 30 days that his name should remain. Both registrars must agree to remove the name.
This act modified the voter registration form to include a space for an applicant to voluntarily provide his SSN. But registrars cannot reject an application that does not include the number. The act explicitly requires voter registration officials to comply with the federal Privacy Act and specifies that the number cannot be disclosed to the public.
The federal law (P.L. 93-579) requires any state or local agency that requests an individual to disclose his SSN to inform the person whether the disclosure is mandatory or voluntary, the statutory or other authority for the request, and what the number will be used for.
The legislative history of the 1993 voter registration provision includes a lengthy discussion in the House of Representatives of the request for SSNs and their use. But the issue was not discussed in the Senate or in the Government Administration and Elections (GAE) Committee public hearing on the measure (at that point the bill did not include the SSN provision). Then-GAE chairman (now Secretary of the State) Miles S. Rapoport introduced an amendment making it clear that providing the number is “entirely voluntary on the part of the voter.” The amendment also included the provisions (1) requiring compliance with the federal privacy law and (2) prohibiting disclosure of the numbers to the public. The amendment passed by a vote of 99-47. Later, Representative Richard Belden introduced an amendment that would have deleted the bill's sections on SSNs, but that amendment failed 86-60. Representative Belden based his opposition to the use of SSNs on the concern that their use by election officials breaches privacy concerns. The bill passed in the house by a vote of 122-25 (House Proc., May 18, 1993).