After years of abysmal turnout numbers in many places, several states boasted record-setting primary election turnout numbers. Coloradoans cast 100,000 more primary votes than their previous 2010 record, Idahoans saw their highest primary turnout in 16 years, and Iowans and Montanans busted their absentee ballot records.
If the results of this summer’s primary races are an indicator of what’s to come in November, the 2018 midterm elections could be some of the most impactful in recent memory.
Even well before the primaries–since the presidential election in fact–political leaders and pundits have acknowledged the 2018 midterms as being potentially game-changing. Both parties as well as independent advocacy groups are calling on voters to step up this fall–and calling on eligible voters to get registered.
By all means, if you are not registered to vote, do so as soon as you can. Voter turnout is an incredibly important thing–the more citizens that show up, the more election results will truly reflect the desires of the country. Plus, you won’t have to worry about 325 million strangers making all of your decisions for you.
But if you’re planning to vote, be mindful of how you register. Though it may not get talked about as much, election time can be as much of a feeding frenzy for scam artists as Christmas. And with a likely contentious election on the horizon, they may be counting on a large influx of new voters to line their pockets this year.
Voter registration scams are nothing new. The goal can be either to bilk you out of cash or steal your identity. Perhaps both.
In either case, in the weeks and months leading up to a crucial election, someone may contact you claiming to work with a nonprofit, a political party, or campaign focused on getting non-voters registered prior to the election. Usually this person will contact you via phone or email, but it’s possible they could be posing as a door-to-door representative.
It’s the same scam we’ve written about a dozen times. This person is going to pitch you a plausible narrative and ask you to provide all of the personal information they’ll need to steal your identity or your money. They may even ask you for a small payment for their assistance.
But this one is tricky compared to the others. For one, like we said, warnings aren’t widely circulated the way they are at Christmas time. For another, there really are a lot of actual, safe organizations encouraging people to register before an important election.
And for a third, as far as narratives go, this one sounds extremely legit. For someone registering to vote for the first time in their state, either because they’ve never been registered before or they’ve recently moved, they might not be familiar with the registry process where they live–just that it requires a fair amount of personal information to register.
To be fair, a lot of what someone would need to ask you to steal your identity IS what you’d need to prove your identity on a voter registration form: full name, date of birth, address, to name a few.
A “Social Security specialist” calling you asking for your SSN to sign you up for some new service might throw you (especially as the SSA will NEVER call you and ask you that–they already have your SSN), but a kind soul trying to sign you up to vote before a big election? They might need that information to verify you.
So what do you do if someone contacts you and tries to recruit you to the voting ranks? How can you tell the grassroots outreach representative from the low-life identity thief trying hoping to destroy your credit in the very near future?
Nice try, phone solicitor
First thing’s first: as with all other flavors of this scam, ignore anyone asking you for personal information over the phone. In most states, you need to provide a signature to vote, something you obviously can’t do over the phone. In states where you can register online, the signature is simply pulled from your driver’s license or state-issued ID.
But for an independent advocate calling to help you register? They don’t have access to information from your driver’s license. And a government bureau will never call you just to see if you want to register to vote. So how is some private person going to sign you up over the phone without your signature? They aren’t.
…And since we’re on the topic of flat-out bogus solicitation methods, that door-to-door representative? Check your local law. Voter registration drives and campaigning like this may not even be legal where you live.
Social Security number? They don’t need no stinking Social Security number.
Which brings us to another point: most states do pull much of your identifying information from your license–not your SSN. Very few states require you to give your full SSN in order to register, and that’s only if you don’t have an active state-issued ID (those are Hawaii, Kentucky, New Mexico, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Virginia). In the other 44 states, you’ll only need to give the last four numbers.
Even though your state does have to be able to verify your identity, it is very likely they do it without asking you for your full SSN. Your state doesn’t need your full SSN–they just need to know if you know it. And if you have a current license? It’s very likely they won’t ask for any part of your SSN.
But you know who absolutely will want your full SSN? An identity thief. So as always, don’t give it to anyone you don’t know and don’t give it to anyone soliciting you out of the blue–no matter what method of contact they use.
You want what?
This might seem pretty obvious, but it’s worth mentioning.
Under no circumstances will any part of the voter registration process involve your bank account, your cash, your checkbook, or your credit cards. Registering to vote doesn’t cost money. Verifying your identity will not be done with your bank account or credit card numbers.
Anyone who tells you they need your bank account numbers to verify you is lying. And anyone offering you registration paperwork for a fee is trying to rip you off (while this may be legal, you can find all of the paperwork needed to register for free at your post office or local election board office).