Texas Releases Personal Data In Voter ID Case
AUSTIN (AP) - The state attorney general’s office accidently provided the Social Security numbers of Texas voters to opposing lawyers as part of a voter ID case, but none of the data leaked out, a top state attorney said Wednesday.
The Social Security numbers were part of a database of 13.1 million Texas voters turned over to attorneys challenging a new law requiring voters to show state-issued photo identification. The list was supposed to include only the last four digits of the voters’ Social Security numbers, to allow groups to analyze whether the law would disproportionately keep minorities from voting.
But when two groups opened encrypted discs supplied to them by the attorney general’s office, they discovered some entries included the full nine-digit number, said First Assistant Attorney General Daniel Hodge. The problem came about because the information was supplied by 254 county registrars using different forms over several decades and in some cases the full number was entered, he said.
“Any claims the Social Security numbers were exposed to the public are categorically false,” Hodge said, explaining that six discs were made and delivered to the attorneys. “Once it was brought to the state’s attention … within 24 hours those discs were reclaimed by the state.”
Hodge said only two of the copies had been accessed and in both cases the attorneys involved immediately notified the state. All of the personal data collected for the trial and shared among the attorneys is protected by a court order and the information was never placed on a public computer server, he added. A state police officer was sent to New York and Washington to retrieve the discs.
That didn’t stop critics from blasting Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott.
“It’s shocking that a person who claims to be so concerned by identify theft could be this reckless with Texans’ most private information,” said Rebecca Acuna, spokeswoman for the Texas Democratic Party. “Abbott still shows more interest in impeding the rights of Texans to vote than in protecting their privacy.”
Abbott is asking a three-judge panel in Washington to approve the voter ID law after the Justice Department determined there was evidence it would hurt minority voters. Because voter registration cards do not list ethnicity, experts in the case wanted to compare the voter roll to Social Security data to further analyze the impact of the law ahead of a trial later this year.
(© Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)
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