By Paul Gable
The drive to get candidates onto the ballot by petition could lead to even further problems down the line than occurred with the recent decision by the S.C. Supreme Court that disqualified these candidates in the first place.
Operation Lost Vote is ramping up a statewide campaign to get as many of the disqualified candidates as possible back on the ballot by the November general election. This is an admirable goal.
What may not be as admirable is the apparent haste to get petitions signed with little pre-planning of the effort.
Notable is the post for a “Signature Saturday” this weekend in Spartanburg County. Brief training and Q&A session will be followed by the distribution of walking lists for door to door canvassing for signatures. You don’t have to know anybody or live in the county to volunteer.
Petition forms are being provided by the county and state election commissions. These forms ask for seven personal identifying items be included on each signature line. Three of the items asked for are not required by state law.
Obviously, the respective election commissions are trying to include enough information on the petitions to make validation of signatures as easy as possible for commission employees. This is also admirable because of the record number of petitions expected to be turned in.
However, in our opinion the petition form goes much too far with personal information. Add to this a line on the OperationLostVote.org website that says the last four digits of the individual’s social security number can be used in place of the voter registration number and you have a recipe for disaster.
How many people would voluntarily give their name, signature, date of birth and last four digits of their social security number to some stranger knocking on their door? This could lead to identity theft by a professional who knows the last four digits of a social security number are the numbers unique to an individual in the overall nine digit number.
And who is to say some professional con men won’t show up as volunteers, especially when they don’t have to know anybody or even live close to where they are volunteering?
Even if identity theft is not the goal, how about selling lists of names, addresses, dates of birth and telephone numbers to marketing firms who are always looking to purchase new lists of potential prospects for their goods and services?
State law requires petitions to be filed with the county or state election commission, depending on which office you are filing for, by noon July 15, 2012. What is the rush to get started with unknown individuals this weekend?
I don’t believe there is anything intentionally sinister with the planned Signature Saturdays. But, I do believe moving so quickly, without proper verification and identification of the volunteers, could lead to much bigger problems later.
Where would liability lie if something does go wrong?
Would the individual candidates be liable if the information got into the wrong hands?
Would the state and local election commissions, in other words our tax dollars, be liable, if the lists get out, for requesting so much more personal information than is required by state law just to make their jobs easier?
Would OperationLostVote.org be liable if social security numbers wound up being stolen?
Is it even legal to ask for all of this information to be requested?
Some type of official certification of volunteers certainly appears to be called for.
Take your time and do it right this time!