Someone is making intimidating calls to people who have purchased the Washington State Registered Voter Database (VRDB) and there have been at least two cases today.
The caller claims to be doing a satisfaction survey and pumps them for information about how and what they use the data for. If that fails, they claim to be an auditor and insist on having the information. Here’s my first person account:
At 12:40pm on Tuesday (September 2nd) I received a call from someone claiming to be from the Washington State government. The caller ID information was blocked and showed as “unknown”. I didn’t hear the man’s name because the cell phone connection was patchy, but he said that he was doing a “satisfaction survey” about my use of the Washington State Voter Registration Database. I replied that the data was fine and that I was satisfied even though I didn’t move ahead with the project that had originally been planned.
The man then identified himself as an auditor and insisted on knowing what my purpose was in using the Registration data. His tone shifted to become officious and intimidating. Suspicious with the shift in original purpose and tone, I said that I wasn’t comfortable disclosing my planned use of the registration database to someone who hadn’t presented me with any credentials. I informed the man that I would be happy to respond if he would send me a request in writing.
Hearing my accent, he asked me if I was Australian or a New Zealander. Concerned about switches from business to personal, I replied warily that I’m originally from Australia. He then asked me if I still lived at [address redacted] in Seattle and told me “Don’t worry, you’ll be seeing me in person” and hung up abruptly. At the end he sounded angry and threatening.
I called the Elections Division of the Secretary of State’s office and reported the incident. They informed me that they had received an almost identical complaint only five minutes prior to my call. They also told me that the Elections Division doesn’t employ auditors, recorded my name and phone number and said that they would be getting back to me.
I also called my phone carrier to report the call and ask if there was any data on where it had originated. They indicated that the state government could contact their legal department who would share the call origination data with them.
There are several questions that this incident provokes:
- Who is doing this?
- A disgruntled WA State employee
- A partisan political Operative/organization
- Why are they doing it?
- Because they are unhappy.
- Because it’s an election year and they want to know who might be running voter turnout operations.
- For money or profit.
- How did they get a list of people with the database?
- From a WA State Employee with access
- By cracking the online order system’s records
- By cracking the physical security of paper records
- From some public record sources that I haven’t been able to find yet
While they are all interesting questions, I’m going to start with the one I’m most urgently interested in - 3.
I don’t believe the list of people who purchase the Washington State VRDB is public. Theoretically, the only people who should know who has the VRDB is the staff of the Elections Division and those in IT who administer, maintain and secure the online VRDB order system. I’m led to wonder what other information these people have apart from my name, home address and phone number. Perhaps the credit card information that I used to pay for the VRDB?
There is no direct money is stuff like this, so my money is on some kind of election year political flim-flammery.
UPDATE: After some checking with the Secretary of States office, it seems that it is possible for someone to obtain information about who has purchased the Washington State VRDB by making a public disclosure request to the Office of Public Disclosure.
One individual has made such a request and I’m now seeking Public Disclosure of information about that person, their request, and the information that they were provided as a result.
The Revised Code of Washington indicates that telephone harassment is a crime (RCW 9.61.230) as is criminal impersonation (9A.60.040) but so far I haven’t been able to find anything that specifically refers to impersonating a government employee or public servant.