On August 16 California Governor Jerry Brown signed SB 112 which is now Chapter 118 of the Statutes of 2013. This law opens Voter Registration Records after 100 years from creation of the record, but does not affect those records that were microfilmed or digitized prior to 1989. The genealogical community worked on this bill with the sponsor and author, and stayed neutral as long as the records that were available prior to 1989—specifically those copied by FamilySearch in the 1970’s and are on both Ancestry.com and the FamilySearch.org websites [covering years of 1900-1968] remain available to the public. Teven Laxer, IAJGS Public Records Access Monitoring Committee [PRAMC] member and member of JGS Sacramento was instrumental in representing the genealogical community under the IAJGS umbrella in these critical discussions. Thanks also go to Victoria Fisch, president of the JGS of Sacramento who first brought the issue to the IAJGS PRAMC attention. You may read the bill at: http://tinyurl.com/lt4qkkg
Original url: http://www.leginfo.ca.gov/pub/13-14/bill/sen/sb_0101-0150/sb_112_bill_20130816_chaptered.pdf
For many years the California Voter Registration records were open and available- in fact both Ancestry.com and FamilySearch.org placed them on their respective websites covering 1900-1968. In 1989 legislation passed which imposed the first limitations on public access to the data. The county would keep confidential home addresses of military personal, law enforcement personnel and in a separate bill a few years later victims of domestic violence were also added to the confidential list. In 1994 the confidentiality provision was extended to everyone. The general public has not had legal access to voter registration records compiled after 1989. The Secretary of State thought it would be appropriate to reopen the records and the bill originally had a 72-year embargo date but due to concerns expressed by county clerks, “ to protect the living”, it was amended to 100 years from date of record creation. While the genealogical community would have preferred the 72 years embargo rather than the 100 years we agreed to it. It is important to note that any records microfilmed or digitized prior to 1989 are and will remain legally available—which was the genealogical community’s major concern.
Voter registration records have valuable genealogical information—it lists name, address, occupation, party affiliation, and the more recent ones include phone number, voters’ signature the state driver’s license number or Social Security number or state identification number.
Jan Meisels Allen
IAJGS Vice President
Chairperson, IAJGS Public Records Access Monitoring Committee