Posted on Jun 30, 2004 in Formal Opinions

Opinion Letter No. 04-11
June 30, 2004
Personal Information of Petition and Nominating Paper Signatorties

The Hawaii County Clerk requested an opinion of the OIP regarding whether the public has a right to inspect and copy petitions which contain personal information of signers under the UIPA.

Hawaii County requires initiative and charter amendment petitioners to collect information from petition signatories. Section 12-3(a)(5), HRS, requires nominating paper signatories to provide similar information: names, signatures, dates of birth, social security numbers, and home addresses.

The petitioners who collect signatures are not government employees and do not generally provide signatories with any type of notice regarding whether collection of the social security numbers is mandatory or voluntary, or what use may be made of the social security numbers.

The OIP opined that the County Clerk may withhold signatories’ street addresses, social security numbers, and dates of birth based on the UIPA’s privacy exception, section 92F-13(1), HRS.

The OIP was also asked whether the UIPA prevents the County Clerk from requiring petitioners to collect social security numbers from signatories, as required by the Hawaii County Charter for initiative or referendum petitions and by the Hawaii Revised Statutes for candidate nominating papers.

The OIP opined that the UIPA does not specifically address what information may be collected by a government agency. However, the requirement that petitioners collect social security numbers may be imputed to the county or the state, and may violate the federal Privacy Act, the federal Constitution, or both.

The OIP therefore advised the County Clerk to consult with Corporation Counsel regarding whether it should enforce the social security number collection requirements.

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