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Pew Upgrading Voter Registration

Pew Upgrading Voter Registration

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Published by Martin Austermuhle

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Published by: Martin Austermuhle on Feb 15, 2012
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial


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Project Name
Issue BrIef
Inaccurate, Cst, an Inefcient
Evience That America’s Vter Registratin SstemNees an Upgrae
Our democratic process requires aneffective system for maintaining accuratevoter registration information. Voterregistration lists are used to assignprecincts, send sample ballots, providepolling place information, identifyand verify voters at polling places, anddetermine how resources, such as paperballots and voting machines, are deployedon Election Day. However, these systemsare plagued with errors and inefficienciesthat waste taxpayer dollars, underminevoter confidence, and fuel partisandisputes over the integrity of our elections. Voter registration in the United Stateslargely reflects its 19th-century originsand has not kept pace with advancingtechnology and a mobile society. States’systems must be brought into the 21stcentury to be more accurate, cost-effective,and efficient.Research commissioned by the Pew Centeron the States highlights the extent of thechallenge:
Approximately 24 million—one of every eight—active voter registrationsin the United States are no longervalid or are significantly inaccurate.
More than 1.8 million deceasedindividuals are listed as active voters.
Approximately 2.75 million peoplehave active registrations in more thanone state.Meanwhile, researchers estimate at least51 million eligible U.S. citizens areunregistered, or more than 24 percent of the eligible population.
eLectIoN INItIatIVes
Issue BrIef
Pew Center on the StateS
One reason for these problems is that manyof us are unlikely to live in one votingprecinct all our lives:
About one in eight Americans movedduring the 2008 and 2010 electionyears.
Some Americans—including thoseserving in the military, young people,and those living in communitiesaffected by the economic downturn—are even more transient. For example,census and other data indicate that asmany as one in four young Americansmoves in a given year.
 At a time when government budgets aresignificantly strained, our antiquated paper-based system remains costly and inefficient.
A study Pew conducted with Oregonfound that, in 2008, state and localtaxpayers spent $4.11 per active voterto process registrations and maintaina voter list, or $7.67 per transaction(new or updated registrations).
Canada, which uses moderntechnology to register people aswell as data-matching techniquescommon in the private sector,spends less than 35 cents per voterto process registrations, and 93percent of its eligible population isregistered.
Maricopa County, AZ—whichincludes Phoenix and has a largerpopulation than 23 states—savedmore than $1 million over five yearsby providing online voter registration,reducing the county’s dependence onpaper and manual data entry. Printingcosts were reduced 75 percent. Eachonline registration costs an average of 3 cents to process, compared with 83cents per paper form.
These findings underscore the needfor states to improve accuracy, cost-effectiveness, and efficiency. As described in the previous report,
Upgrading Democracy: Improving America’sElections by Modernizing States’ VoterRegistration Systems
, Pew is workingwith election officials, academics, andtechnology specialists to help statesimprove their registration systems.Participating states will establish newways for voters to submit informationonline and join together to compareregistration lists with more datasources, using proven, secure matchingtechniques and technology to increasedata accuracy.
nearly 1 in 4
eligible citizensare not registered to vote.
That’s more than
of the eligible population.
51 million
Unregistered citizens
at least
The paper-based processes of mostregistration systems present severalopportunities for error. In a typical system,election officials get information abouta voter’s identity, eligibility, address, andcontact information through a formcompleted at a public agency, such as acounty election office or motor vehiclesoffice, or through an unregulated third-party voter registration group, such as acampaign or advocacy organization. Theseare sent to election offices, where the dataoften are manually entered and namesare added to the voter list. A voter mustsupply any change to that information,such as a new address, name, or partyaffiliation, which is usually manuallyentered and processed by election officials.The inability of this paper-based processto keep up with voters as they move ordie can lead to problems with the rolls,including the perception that they lackintegrity or could be susceptible to fraud.
The Pew Center on the Statescommissioned RTI International, aprominent nonprofit, nonpartisanresearch institute, to assess the quality andaccuracy of state voter registration listsin the United States. RTI used a uniquedatabase maintained by Catalist, LLC, aleading aggregator and processor of voterinformation, to estimate the number of records that are inaccurate or no longervalid. For this report, a “no longer valid”record represents a person who is on therolls but no longer eligible to cast a vote,likely due to having moved or died. An“inaccurate” record represents an eligiblevoter whose file has incorrect data.Catalist regularly updates its database forall 50 states and the District of Columbia,thus providing a sound basis for makingnational-level estimates of no longervalid and inaccurate records, duplicateregistrations, and other important measuresof list quality. The organization buys voterlists from states and local governments,and combines that information with datafrom other public and commercial sources,such as the National Change of Addressdatabase run by the U.S. Postal Service,
InaCCurate, CoStly, and IneICIent
24 million
1 in 8
active registrationsare significantly inaccurate orno longer valid.
deceased individualsare listed as activevoters.
1.8 million
records containan incorrectaddress.
12 million
 Voter Registration Inaccuracies

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