Citing Privacy Concerns, ACLU Challenges Florida Law Requiring Social Security Numbers for Absentee Voting

Affiliate: ACLU of Florida
August 10, 2000 12:00 am

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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Thursday, August 10, 2000

TALLAHASSEE, FL — In an effort to protect privacy rights, the Voting Rights Project of the American Civil Liberties Union filed a lawsuit here today challenging a state statute that requires voters to disclose the last four digits of their social security number in order to obtain absentee ballots.

According to ACLU court papers, the state has made no effort to ensure that the nine-digit identification numbers will not be misused. In fact, another state statute that allows anyone to inspect election registration records, including social security numbers, makes it impossible to ensure confidentiality.

“It is shocking that Florida first requires disclosure of social security numbers for registration and voting, and then fails to take the necessary steps to ensure that those numbers are not disclosed to third parties,” said ACLU Voting Rights Project attorney Cristina Correia.

The statute also requires that individuals give their entire social security numbers when requesting absentee ballots on behalf of immediate family members.

Correia said the ACLU was concerned that the forced disclosure of social security numbers could lead to identity fraud, where imposters armed with a person’s name and social security number can raid bank accounts, establish fraudulent credit cards and even ruin a victim’s credit.

The lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court today on behalf of Florida voters from Key Largo, charges that, violates the 1974 Federal Privacy Act. The federal law makes it unlawful for local, state or federal agencies to deny someone “any right, benefit, or privilege provided by law” for refusing to disclose their social security numbers.

The ACLU said that the policy violates their clients’ free expression and privacy rights under the U.S. Constitution. The group is asking the court to declare the statute unconstitutional, thus preventing any further enforcement of the invasive law by elections offices throughout the State of Florida.

The ACLU clients in the case, who will be in Tennessee during the first primary election on September 5, requested absentee ballots in Monroe County in order to participate in the election with other Florida voters.

When they failed to include the last four digits of each of their social security numbers on the request forms for absentee ballots, the Monroe County Supervisor of Elections refused to issue ballots to either one of them. One man then tried to get a ballot for his wife, but he was unable to do so without disclosing his entire social security number and the last four digits of her social security number.

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