Complaint alleges state should collect voters’ personal data

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) — Former gubernatorial candidate Ken Block alleges that Rhode Island violates federal law by not collecting voters’ personal identifying information.

Block announced Thursday he’s contacting the U.S. Department of Justice. He says the state doesn’t collect driver’s license numbers or Social Security numbers from all registering voters, only from voters registering by mail.

Secretary of State Nellie Gorbea says federal law requires collecting this information from people registering to vote for the first time, if they have it. She says the state’s online voter registration system captures driver’s license information.

Block says the state doesn’t have basic identifying information for thousands of voters in the 2016 general election, violating a 2002 federal law.

The former third-party candidate analyzed voting records for a conservative nonprofit’s controversial report on voter fraud.

In a statement Thursday, Secretary of State Nellie M. Gorbea said:

“We first received notice of Mr. Ken Block’s complaint to the US Department of Justice at 10 a.m. this morning through the Providence Journal’s reporting. His complaints are in response to changes in 2008 to the Board of Elections Rules and Regulations for voter registration.

We have also been looking into the information required of first-time registrants by the Help America Vote Act of 2002 (HAVA). HAVA specifies that anyone registering to vote for the first time must provide either a driver’s license number or the last four digits of their social security number if they have them.

We’ve already had conversations with the Board of Elections about updating their rules and regulations, trainings, and procedures for voter registration.

Since taking office, the work we have done to modernize elections has greatly improved the quality of the information we collect for eligible voters. For example, we implemented online voter registration last year, which requires first-time registrants to provide a Rhode Island driver’s license or state ID to complete their voter registration. This information is also captured for voters updating their voter information online.

As for Mr. Block’s concerns with Automatic Voter Registration, information is only updated when tied to a Rhode Island driver’s license or state ID record. This means that the data required by HAVA for first-time registrants, is automatically included in the voter’s registration.”