GOP senators defeat bill prompted by political ad firm’s request for N.D. college students’ contact information
BISMARCK - The phone numbers, email addresses and home addresses of students at North Dakota's 11 public colleges and universities will remain open records after state senators killed a bill Monday prompted by a Republican-friendly ad agency's ac...
BISMARCK – The phone numbers, email addresses and home addresses of students at North Dakota’s 11 public colleges and universities will remain open records after state senators killed a bill Monday prompted by a Republican-friendly ad agency’s actions last election season.
Senators voted 20-26 to defeat Senate Bill 2133, which was requested by the State Board of Higher Education after Bismarck-based Odney Advertising, a campaign consultant to the state Republican Party and GOP candidates, obtained the contact information for roughly 48,000 students in the North Dakota University System through an open records request and sent two emails to each student.
“There was quite an uprising on campuses” when students found out the information they thought was exempt from public record had been released, said Sen. Carolyn Nelson, D-Fargo. “They were not happy.”
Nelson carried the bill in the Senate Government and Veterans Affairs Committee, which gave it a 4-3 do-pass recommendation.
As amended, the bill would have treated students’ personal and institution-issued email addresses, home address, postal address and phone numbers as exempt records that could only be released with the student’s permission.
Currently, students can restrict which information is public, either by contacting the appropriate campus office or through their student account.
Sen. Ray Holmberg, R-Fargo, argued against the bill, saying that while some students may not want to receive messages from political candidates, “Well, neither do I … but I don’t have that opportunity.”
“I believe that students who live in our communities should have the same level of exposure to our political missives as anyone else who is living there and possibly voting in those districts,” he said.
Nelson said if students wanted the political messages, they could opt in under the bill.
“But they didn’t want the whole list of every student in the university system released to an ad agency to get inundated with information,” she said. “This was the cause of the problem.”
Sen. Dwight Cook, R-Mandan, who voted against the bill, referred to Odney President Pat Finken’s committee testimony that of the 96,000 emails sent, Odney received only 123 responses asking that their names be taken off the firm’s mailing list.
Republicans accounted for all of the votes against the bill and six of the votes in favor of it.