Voter information posted for fraud protection used to recruit voters

If someone wants you to know they voted, typically they wear one of those tiny “I VOTED” stickers. However names of those early voting are also on a public website, while voting is still going on, and that's troubling for people like Kathy Thomas.

"It is a privacy thing, I think if that information is made available, it should be made available after the election,” said Thomas. Her trip Thursday to a Cedar Park polling place will be online by Friday on the Williamson County Elections site.

State law requires every county to post what's called a voter roster. On the Travis County Elections site, the list is identified as Election Day and Early Voting Roster. Clicking on a link downloads names which are updated on a daily basis. State lawmakers had a reason for the list, according to political analyst Brian Smith.



"The primary intent of that is of course, is voter fraud. You put in all these things to prevent voter fraud, which means updating who has voted and cross-checking that to make sure these people are not voting twice, but political parties look at it and say this is a real opportunity gain,” said Smith.

The list includes addresses, but no birthdates or phone numbers. Smith says data miners can still find you. “If you know somebody's precinct then you know what neighborhood they live in and how that neighborhood generally votes,” he said.

In a strange way, those who are getting the messages share some of the blame.

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"We are giving them this information for free and they are selling it, meaning there are companies out there collecting information on us all the time and they are selling it to a political party to them use to get us out to vote. And in a worst-case scenario we could see the political parties using this to try to discourage people to vote,” said Smith.

It explains text messages like this one provided to FOX7 which reads:

"Hi Dxxxx. Thank you for being a voter in this monumental election! We noticed that Nxxxx (an individual in his household) hasn't voted yet and every vote counts. Will you remind them to vote?”

A the bottom of the text message, there is a link from a national labor union offering help in making a decision.

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"I don’t want to be intimidated to go out and vote,” said Jase Campbell, who said he has received several of these types of voting text messages. "I try to unsubscribe and I keep getting more and more messages and it's like just leave me alone, I've already done my voting."

Others come in the mail, like this one called Texas Vote, from a Chicago anti-Trump group. The printed message, which appears as a handwritten note, warns the resident, “a local organization may follow up with them to talk about their voting record.”

The Center for Voter Information is also mailing letters. One letter sent to FOX 7 told an Austin resident which of his neighbors have voted and stated that they may want him to explain why he hasn't voted yet. The list, according to Smith, has the potential for being used for something nefarious.

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"If our political parties get this information and use it to turn out the vote, then it also means foreign governments can use this information and start disinformation schemes against us,” said Smith.

Officials with the Secretary of State's office said they are aware of how the early voting roster is being used by campaigns. As of now, it appears the state is not viewing the messages as voter intimidation.