Linn County, Iowa, Handles Accidental Release of Voter Data

The last four digits of about 216,000 Linn County voters’ Social Security numbers were released accidentally by staff last year in the Auditor’s Office.

by James Q. Lynch, The Gazette, Cedar Rapids, Iowa / August 8, 2017

(TNS) -- CEDAR RAPIDS — The Linn County Auditor’s Office is “working as fast as we can” to reduce the risk from an accidental release of voter data last week, according to Auditor Joel Miller.

“I’m hopeful the risk has been minimized,” Miller said Monday.

The last four digits of about 216,000 Linn County voters’ Social Security numbers accidentally were released late last week by staff in the Auditor’s Office. They were filling a standing request for weekly updates of voter registration information, which is public information.

Miller’s staff briefed the Board of Supervisors, which went into closed session because of the potential for litigation arising from the data release, he said.

Miller said he is limited in what he can say because he’s waiting on more information from government attorneys, as well as the internet service provider.

“They’ve been responsive,” he said. “Even over the weekend they were responsive to our inquiries, but I don’t know how long it will be before we get answers.”

The release happened as an employee in the Auditor’s Office was filling a request for voter registration information for the Linn County Republican Party. The update went to four people. Three agreed to delete that data. However, the person whose name is on the fourth email account told Miller it was not and never has been hers.

Linn County GOP Chairman Justin Wasson of Cedar Rapids told Miller that he had provided the wrong email address.

“I had an incorrect email listed in my address book for one of the individuals which is why the Auditor’s Office also had an incorrect email that was receiving the documents,” Wasson texted to Miller. “The Auditor’s Office was very prompt to try and resolve the issue. I accept responsibility for my error.

“There’s no reason to believe that there is any malicious intent,” Wasson added.

While he has “some level” of confidence the data is not at risk, Miller said he has more steps to take. For example, he wants to either recover the data or make sure the data has been destroyed.

Miller and Wasson said the three known recipients agreed to delete the email containing the Social Security information.

The voter information — names, addresses and party registration, but not Social Security information — is public information the Auditor’s Office makes available upon request for a fee that depends on the amount of data requested, Miller said.

So far this year, 28 people have requested updated voter rolls on a regular basis. Most are elected officials, candidates for office or representatives of political parties, according to the auditor’s website.

©2017 The Gazette (Cedar Rapids, Iowa) Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.