Outside Looking In? Public Access to Election Databases


[Image courtesy of arquazuarma]

The Indianapolis Star recently ran an editorial calling on the Marion County Election Board to give access to five “unslated” (i.e., non party endorsed) candidates running in the Hoosier State’s May 8 primary.

Here’s the crux of the issue, from the editorial:

The unslated candidates point out that the database is a public record compiled at taxpayer expense. The state Public Access Counselor has informally sided with them, but has advised that the Marion County Election Board adopt a policy ordering the registration board to act.

In a special meeting last week, County Clerk Beth White moved to do so. Neither of her fellow election board members offered a second. Patrick Dietrick and Mark Sullivan both are party appointees; but each said he needed to know more about the cost and complexity of releasing the data, as well as the privacy implications.

Superior Court judge candidate Greg Bowes, leader of the plaintiffs, has obtained information in the past and says he can lay all the concerns to rest. Clearly, the burden of proving otherwise should be on the government recordkeepers; and they need to act with dispatch, if not on their own then under court order.

Access to data has been a recurring theme on this blog; indeed, we have come at the issue in a number of different ways:

This issue – access of all candidates to the same information about elections – tends to recur but is likely to intensify as more and more individuals and groups become familiar with the need for election information in all aspects of campaigns and seek to obtain it accordingly.

Election officials already need to have multiple capabilities, but going forward it is almost certain that an understanding of public access – and the technological tools to make it happen – will become increasingly important. Whether, as in Marion County, the policymakers responsible for overseeing elections are willing to allow this is another matter entirely.

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