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VERIFY: What information did Russia and Iran get from voter registration lists?

The FBI said both countries obtained voter lists in the United States. It gave them access to voters registration information, but not much beyond that.

WASHINGTON — This month, FBI officials found that both Iran and Russia have already attempted to tamper with voters by sending misinformation and intimidation. They did it by getting voter registration lists.

But what exactly did they find? Our Verify team talked to legal experts and the FBI to help find the answer.


What information is contained on voter registration lists?


Both Iran and Russia got basic voter information, but nothing that could steal an identity or change a person’s vote completely. 



 Jon Greenbaum, a voting rights lawyer.

 Tammy Patrick, an elections expert for the Democracy Fund


According to the FBI, in mid-October FBI agents discovered that both countries obtained voter registration data.

The Verify team asked Jon Greenbaum, a voting rights lawyer, how that possible. He said that the process of buying a voting registration list like those Russia and Iran received was not that difficult.

“In a lot of states, anybody can purchase a voter registration list,” Greenbaum said. “There are some states that we work with that will give it to for free or give it to you for a few dollars.”

The FBI has not said how the countries got the voter registration rolls, but our expert, Tammy Patrick, ran down what information is on those lists.

“It includes basically what used to be in a phonebook,” she said. 

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"So, the voter's name, their address, it may include something like the year of birth, or maybe even the month and day, but usually not a full date of birth as being publicly available.”

Patrick explained it also can include emails and party affiliation, but that varies from state to state. 

It does not include identifying information, like social security numbers.

“The things that are not available are things like the last four digits of your social or your driver's license number, that sort of information,” she said.

Basically, it's not information that would allow someone to steal an identity or change how a person votes.

“It's absolutely the case that in a moment like this, it is far easier to try and influence perception than it is to influence the actual infrastructure of our elections,” she said.

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