September 29, 2020 – The Nevada County Elections Office today removed private information on local candidates from their website. The fix came after repeated requests for comment on the disclosure of the candidates’ home addresses and phone numbers.

In preparation for the upcoming election, we accessed the Nevada County Elections Office’s webpage entitled “Meet the Candidates.” The link to the pdf file opened a spreadsheet containing eight tabs. The spreadsheet appears dated September 16, 2020.

A tab entitled ‘Candidate Filing Status NOT Pub’ contained the residence and mailing addresses, email and cell phone numbers for all candidates for local office. The spreadsheet tab also listed when the candidate completed the filing, the check number for the statement of qualification and if the statement was to be printed in English only or English and Spanish.

A screenshot of the private info tab. Redaction by YubaNet

Other tabs in the spreadsheet contained outdated information on previous races and one tab contained the public information on all candidates.

On Monday morning, we sent an email to the Assistant Registrar of Voters and waited to hear back before publishing. Going live with the accidental posting still visible would only defeat the purpose of protecting the candidates’ private information.

Our question to the elections official was “What checks are in place to avoid this type of erroneous postings?” When no response was forthcoming, we placed a call to the Elections Office today. Staff promised to fix the accidental posting right away (and did.) Once again this reporter asked for a call back/email by elections officials for comment.

We received an email response just before noon: “We’ve corrected the issue. Thank you for bringing this to our attention.” A follow-up email requesting once again comments on processes and failsafe checks has remained unanswered at publication time.

The updated information on the Elections website now correctly lists the public info of candidates for Grass Valley, Nevada City and Truckee city/town councils, Nevada County Board of Education and Nevada City Elementary School District. Nevada Irrigation District, school districts, fire departments and other special districts are not listed at publication time.

Why it matters

Exposing, even purely by accident, personal addresses of candidates at a time when public health officials have to be protected by confidential registration with the Secretary of State’s Safe at Home program is a snafu.

Running an election, especially in a presidential election year, requires extensive planning and an incredible attention to detail by everyone on the team. It is a painstakingly difficult job, done under the full scrutiny of the voters and observers like the media.

Ballots are about to be mailed to all registered voters in Nevada County and the full local Voter Information Guide is already available for download.