Historians, researchers, and people exploring genealogy will have an new window to the past thanks to a new law Secretary of State Debra Bowen sponsored and the governor approved last Friday.

California voter rolls will be available to the public after 100 years. Personal identifiers, such as Social Security and drivers license numbers, were not used in voter registration until 1994, and waiting 100 years to open these records ensures that no living individual’s information will be vulnerable to identity theft.

“No matter how old voter registration records are, state law really limits who can look at these historical treasures,” said Bowen. “Most often, people want access to old voter rolls to study their family history, so this bill makes that possible while protecting the privacy of current voters.”

Each county Registar of Voters office maintains voter registration records containing historical information such as the date of birth, address, occupation, and in some cases the country of origin, and physical characteristics of each voter such as height, hair color and distinguishing marks.