By Rex Hastings, doghillmedia.com columnist
September 14, 2020
Did the Secretary of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts (Elections Division) just make it easier for hackers to steal your identity? If you are a voter in Massachusetts you probably just received a “2020 Vote by Mail Application” in the mail, like the one below:
Inside this application the voter is instructed to sign and mail in a postcard in order to receive their ballot. This postcard (example below) is what the voter is asked to send through the mail, postage paid, with no envelope, to the town/city clerk:
On every voter application Dog Hill Media has reviewed in Central Massachusetts, the voter’s full birth date appears right below the barcode. Look what is underlined under the barcode in the above example – the first two numbers are the voter’s month of birth (here, February). The next two letters are the voter’s initials. The next four numbers are the voter’s day and year of birth. So John Smith’s birthday is February 4, 1962. Check your application!
Dog Hill Media has reviewed other applications that actually list the voter’s party affiliation and year of birth just above the barcode, and below the barcode the full date of birth is printed.
You don’t have to be a rocket surgeon to realize that printing a voter’s full date of birth on a postcard is a bad idea – ask any identity thief (or four-year-old). While dates of birth may not be considered Personally Identifiable Information in Massachusetts, they should not be sent through the mail for all to see.
IF YOUR BIRTH DATE IS PRINTED ON THE POSTCARD AS NOTED ABOVE, AND YOU ARE VOTING BY MAIL, CONSIDER PLACING THE POSTCARD IN A SECURITY ENVELOPE BEFORE MAILING IT.
IF YOU ARE VOTING IN PERSON, CONSIDER SHREDDING THE POSTCARD IF YOUR BIRTH DATE IS PRINTED ON IT. DON’T SIMPLY THROW THE POSTCARD IN THE TRASH.
The Secretary of the Commonwealth should immediately warn voters that dates of birth were printed on voting applications, and provide postage-paid security envelopes and document destruction services free of charge to all those impacted.
The right to vote is the most precious right we have as Americans. Exercising this right should not involve an increased risk of identity theft, but in Massachusetts it very well might. For what it’s worth, I’ve decided to vote in person this year. And I’m showing I.D.
Rex Hastings, columnist, DogHillMedia.com
Contact Rex at RexHastings@protonmail.com
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