A searchable copy of the voting rolls for the state of Alabama, which includes the registered addresses of over three and a half million Alabama voters, is now available to the public after a conservative non-profit, headed by a former Trump campaign official and funded by a billionaire political donor, published the rolls as a part of an ongoing process to create “a transparent election system for all Americans,” according to a statement released by the group on Tuesday.
The Voter Reference Foundation, a registered 501(c)4 non-profit created by the Restoration Action group in the wake of the 2020 U.S Presidential Election, has now successfully published voter registration data from 32 U.S states, each available without subscription or payment on its VoteRef website.
Information generally includes a voter’s name, home address, voting history, and voting precinct but can also include registered party affiliation and age depending on the state. Voting rolls are public information and releasable without consent from registered voters upon purchase or request, despite the personal data included.
“Every state that VRF adds to the database is one step closer to a transparent election system for all Americans,” said Voter Reference Foundation Executive Director Gina Swoboda. “Restoring trust in the electoral process is the goal that we’re always working toward.”
The Alabama section shows the information on 3,631,862 registered voters and includes home addresses, voting precincts, and whether an individual voted in a federal election cycle.
Copies of the state’s voting roll may be purchased from the Alabama Secretary of State’s Office at the price of $36,623.47, according to the Secretary of State’s Office, but the copy does not update as registered voters’ information changes.
“The day that you get my voter list, it’s outdated,” said Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill in an interview with APR on Wednesday. “Because that day, there’s going to be names added and names deleted from that voter list. So no matter when you purchase it, it’s going to be old.”
Consulting firms, political candidates, and campaigns, along with businesses, are entities that normally purchase copies of Alabama’s voting rolls, Merrill said.
“The minute you purchase this, it becomes an aged document,” Merrill said. “It’s not as valuable to you as it would be if you had immediate access to it every day.”
Merrill also said that the publishing of Alabama’s voting rolls did not concern him since the published rolls are “only accurate the day that it was printed.”
VoteRef has been criticized in the past for publishing voting registration data, which it has described as “sloppily kept and infrequently updated” nationwide, without clearly indicating that voting information is ever-changing throughout the U.S. The implications of having voters’ information shared freely online without their consent have also been a concern for many.
An investigation by ProPublica into the financial backing behind VoteRef discovered that the organization’s funding originates from the Restoration PAC, a super PAC largely funded by billionaire Richard Uihlein. Uihlein, an heir to the Schlitz brewing fortune and founder of the Uline shipping and packaging company, has a history of donations to conservative and far-right political candidates and groups.
In September 2020, Uihlein donated $800,000 to the Tea Party Patriots, a co-sponsor of the “March to Save America” rally in Washington D.C, which led to the storming of the U.S. Captiol on Jan. 6, according to ProPublica.
The groups’ executive director Gina Swoboda, a former official inside the Arizona Secretary of State’s Office, also served as former U.S. President Donald Trump’s Election Day operations director for the Trump campaign in Arizona.
“VoteRef is the beginning of a new era in American election transparency,” Swoboda said. “We have an absolute right to see everything behind the curtain. Too often election information is de facto secretive — it might technically be accessible but the average citizen has no idea how to access it. Today, that begins to change.”