Conservative party wins court ruling to access, publish voter rolls online.

Santa Fe — Federal judge rules that New Mexico election officials violated public disclosure standards of the National Voter Registration Act by refusing to release voter records to a conservative nonprofit and its online database. Friday, Albuquerque-based U.S. District Court Judge James Browning mostly sided with the Voter Reference Foundation and its efforts to expand a free database of registered voters so groups and individuals can investigate potential irregularities or fraud.  

Multiple state election officials and privacy advocates have warned about a conservative group's push to gain access to state voter rolls, saying the lists could fall into malicious hands and disenfranchise voters through intimidation, possibly by canceling their registrations to avoid public disclosure of their home addresses and party affiliation.  

New Mexico election law prohibits voter registration data dissemination. It limits data use to political campaigning and noncommercial government uses. Browning said that system “severely burdens the circulation of voter data among the public” and breaches federal disclosure laws.  

Browning noted that the data sharing limitation prevents individuals and institutions from using released records to identify voter registration-related problems. His order follows a February federal appeals court ruling that Maine must give its voter list to the conservative-backed Public Interest Legal Foundation, which conducts independent audits by comparing voter lists. now offers 32 states and DC data. Gina Swoboda, Arizona Republican Party head since January, organized former President Donald Trump's 2020 re-election campaign.  

We are very gratified that the court has upheld the right of the public to have meaningful access to vote rolls,” Swoboda said via email. “The public disclosure provision of the National Voter Registration Act allows the public to view voter lists and associated list maintenance records to ensure proper list maintenance. New Mexico residents can trust this opinion to ensure transparency in this crucial electoral process.”  

Swoboda did not indicate when the New Mexico voter list would be online. The organization stole New Mexico voter rolls from a vendor and released them online in 2021, prompting a recommendation for prosecution. Foundation pulled information offline and sued.  

New Mexico secretary of state spokesperson Alex Curtas said the ruling will be appealed. Democrat Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver “will continue to do everything in her power to advocate for the protection of voters’ personal information and ultimately encourage voter participation,” Curtas wrote in an email.  

Curtas applauded the judge's ruling that dismissed the foundation's claims that New Mexico violated free expression under its voter information limits. Conservative groups are suing for voter registration data in many states, including Pennsylvania, citing baseless claims of rampant voting fraud inspired by Trump's claim that the 2020 presidential election was stolen.  

The Pennsylvania Office of Open Records refuses to give the Voter Reference Foundation voter data, arguing it would increase the danger of identity theft and misuse. Pennsylvania officials won in state court, and the foundation filed in federal court in February to get the voter rolls under the National Voter Registration Act.  

In New Mexico and Maine, federal rulings preserve state voter confidentiality programs for assault and stalking victims that conceal home addresses, but otherwise would “essentially eliminate” state discretion on voter list release, according to Electronic Privacy Information Center director of litigation John Davisson.  

He claimed states have enacted varying confidentiality precautions surrounding voter data. “This really cuts that all away and says you can't restrict data disclosure.”  

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