Attorney General: Honorable Susan Bysiewicz, State Capitol, 1999-001 Formal Opinion, Attorney General of Connecticut

Attorney General's Opinion

Attorney General Richard Blumenthal

February 2, 1999

Honorable Susan Bysiewicz
Secretary of the State
State Capitol
Capitol Avenue
Hartford, CT 06106

Re: Social Security Numbers Provided to Registrars

Dear Ms. Bysiewicz:

In Public Act No. 97-200, the legislature amended various statutes to provide for additional sources of names for the jury rolls, and provided for the use of social security numbers by the jury administrator to prevent duplication. Section 6 of this Public Act amended Conn. Gen. Stat.  51-222a to require registrars to provide the jury administrator with lists of electors and their social security numbers "if available." Last year, in a formal opinion to the Chief Court Administrator, I concluded that the provisions of P.A. 97-200 are ambiguous, and that the jury administrator "should proceed to establish the master jury list with the names of electors supplied by the registrars of voters, but without electors' Social Security numbers, until the legislature has an opportunity to act on this matter."

The question has arisen whether voters who had provided their Social Security numbers to their local registrars prior to the enactment of P.A. # 97-200 may, consistent with the law, request that these numbers be removed from their records. You have asked:

If an elector files a written request to remove his/her social security number from the records of the registrars of voters (to whom the elector voluntarily gave it on his voter application card under section 9-20 of the General Statutes) may the registrar remove it from his/her records, and may the registrar of voters then refuse to provide such social security number to the Jury Administrator in the format prescribed under Section 51-222a?

For the reasons that follow, my answer to this question is yes.

Beginning in 1993, registrars of voters were permitted to request voters to provide their social security numbers if they wished to do so for use in maintaining accurate voter lists, and, consistent with requirements of the federal Privacy Act, were required to inform voters of the uses to which the numbers would be put. Conn. Gen. Stat.  9-23g, 9-23h. Accordingly, voter registration forms contained the provision, "Social Security Number (Voluntary). (Your application will not be rejected for failure to provide your Social Security Number because providing it is voluntary under Conn. Gen. Stat.  9-23g [and 9-23h]. The Social Security Number will be used by election officials to prepare accurate lists of electors, but no official may disclose it to the public.)" (emphasis added). PA 93-386.

Since the effective date of P.A. 97-200, registration forms have been modified to include notice that social security numbers provided would also be used by jury administration as well as by election officials "in preparing accurate lists." Your question concerns individuals who have voluntarily provided their social security numbers to their local registrars in the past, under the impression the numbers would be used only for election purposes, and now wish to remove their numbers and prevent their distribution to the jury administrator.

We conclude that voters may request removal of their numbers with support under current law. Federal and state law is clear that the provision of social security numbers in connection with voter registration is strictly voluntary, and requires notice to the voter of the uses to which the number will be put. The notice provision is essential to the collection of the numbers, because the voter is being asked effectively to waive his right to keep his social security number private. It is a basic principle of law that a waiver of rights must be knowing, voluntary and intelligent to be effective. State v. Piorkowski, 243 Conn. 205, 215 (1997). It follows that a voter cannot voluntarily waive his right to keep his social security number private unless he is told in advance the uses to which the number will be put, and agrees to disclosure under those terms.

In the question you pose, individuals who have voluntarily disclosed their social security numbers on voter registration forms with the understanding that they would be used only by election officials should be permitted to withdraw their disclosure since the conditions of the disclosure have now changed.

I hope this answers your inquiry.

Very truly yours,

RICHARD BLUMENTHAL
ATTORNEY GENERAL

RB/ckq


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