Oregon makes money selling voter information

SALEM, Ore. (AP) - The Oregon secretary of state's office has made nearly $90,000 in fees over the past five years by selling voter information to political parties and private companies.
   
The state charges $500 for the voter registration database, the Statesman Journal reported Sunday. That's far higher than the $7 charged in Washington state or the $30 charged in California. The cost makes the records difficult for the public to access, but for-profit companies have made the purchase, records show.
   
The voter registration database includes information such as each voter's name, address, date of birth and voter history. It doesn't show how anyone voted.
   
Organizations that buy the database are not supposed to use it for "commercial purposes." But some of the purchasing companies are data vendors who sell information to banks, corporations and private investigators, the newspaper reported.
   
Tony Green, a spokesman for Secretary of State Kate Brown, said state law does not define "commercial purposes," and the state relies on complaints about how the information is being used before taking action. The fine for a first-time violator is $75.
   
Some states sell their voter information for even more than Oregon - Montana, for example, charges $1,000. But it's free in Nevada and Wyoming.
   
Voter records have historically been available to the public to help ensure integrity of the electoral system. But Kim Alexander, president and founder of the nonprofit California Voter Foundation, said political marketing companies use the data, along with other information to create elaborate profiles of voters.
   
"Everyone in the political world knows this data is available, yet it's the best kept secret from voters you can imagine," Alexander said. She said the idea that personal information is being used to create voter profiles makes many voters uncomfortable.