Kabuki: Utah Lieutenant Governor Plays Games With Voter Birth Date Protection

Apparently, the Utah Lieutenant Governor’s (Greg Bell) office caught a fair amount of calls regarding SB18 which was recently amended to protect voter’s birth dates from public records. Currently, by having the audacity to register to vote, you acquiesce to allow your name, date of birth, and address to become a public record for anyone to buy from the Lieutenant Governor’s office. Savvy folks will realize that inclusion of date of birth provides the majority of what an identity thief needs for their ‘work’.

In relation to SB18, the Lieutenant Governor stated:

I must have the e-mail…I will not lobby to prevent the birth date from being made public.

Apparently, he’s perfectly fine with your date of birth being stripped out of the bill and remaining as a public record but not your email address (an optional item for voter registration). That stance seems to have resulted in his office taking some poignant calls. The reaction: pass the buck and play political spin games.

The office responded to emails and calls with talking points including the following:

  • Since 2005, the Lieutenant Governor’s office has fought to classify a voter’s date of birth as private under GRAMA.
  • Despite the best efforts of the Lieutenant Governor’s Office over the last 7 years, various bills to make a voter’s date of birth a private record have not been successful.
  • This year, the Lieutenant Governor’s efforts to protect birth dates include assisting Representative Becky Edwards in drafting HB304, which is making its way through the legislative process.
  • Last year, a legislative committee studied whether a voter’s email address could be considered private under GRAMA. SB18 is a product of that study. After extensive research and discussion, the committee unanimously passed SB18. The issue of protecting birth dates was NOT included in the study.
  • The matter of whether a voter’s date of birth should be a public or private record is entirely up to the Legislature.

Here’s the spin and political game with the above points:

Yes there is another bill (HB304 – kudos to Representative Edwards). However, with a 7 year history of being voted down, clearly he knows the bill is destined for failure as the Utah Republican and Democrat Parties pressure legislators to kill such legislation. Weakly pushing for this legislation knowing it will fail is a the political equivalent of Kabuki – put on a fancy mask and pretend you really tried and cared, then being shocked, shocked at the outcome.

It gets worse: the supporting tactic is the ‘extensive research and committee discussion’ on the email issue might be lost if SB18 is voted down due to date of birth protection being included. The issue was raised by an interim committee. I found it was the “Government Operations and Political Subdivisions Interim Committee”. I looked at the committee’s minutes (audio available at link). Apparently the “extensive” effort of the committee consists all of 7 minutes of actual discussion in the October 19,2011 meeting. Please…please tell me I have this wrong; if not, the ‘extensive’ statement is offensive.

The office also implies that committee legislation is cast in stone. Sorry, interim committee recommended legislation is never immune from amendment. Amendments on study recommendations happen all the time. For that matter, the same could be argued from standing committee recommendations during the session – they certainly are anything but immune from floor amendments.

Anyway, the Lt. Governor’s office argues that by adding email and date of birth protection together, neither may pass. That’s fine, I can always change my email address. By keeping the bills separate, I have seven years of precedent to know the birth date protection is guaranteed not pass (and I can’t change my date of birth). So, if email addresses are so important to legislators, they can compromise with us who view date of birth as far more important and pass both protections. Let’s face it: if they don’t pass it all, we’ve realistically lost is email address protection which isn’t nearly as big of a deal.  At least, the Lt. Governor could legitimately claim he was serious and let legislators explain why they prefer to force him to sell voter’s personal information and force him to expose voters to potential identity theft. If he’s really serious, it’s time to play the hard ball legislators engage in all the time.

I don’t think you can count on anyone but yourself: contact your Representative and Senator and firmly, but politely, ask that they support SB18 as currently amended (with date of birth protection).

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7 thoughts on “Kabuki: Utah Lieutenant Governor Plays Games With Voter Birth Date Protection

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