One in Eight Voter Registrations Nationwide Inaccurate, Out-of-Date, Pew Finds

[Image courtesy of Pew Center on the States]

Pew’s Elections team continues its breathtaking pace of research, following recent reports on military and overseas voting and evidence-based election administration with a new study that finds one in eight voter registrations nationwide are inaccurate or out of date.

Inaccurate, Costly and Inefficient: Evidence That America’s Voter Registration System Needs an Upgrade is a first-of-a-kind attempt to quantify the health of state and local voter rolls.

From Pew’s release –

The ground-breaking examination of the nation’s voter rolls, commissioned by Pew and undertaken by RTI International, a nonprofit, nonpartisan research institute, also finds that:

• At least 51 million eligible citizens remain unregistered–more than 24 percent of the eligible population.

• Nearly 2 million deceased individuals are listed as active voters.

• Approximately 2.75 million people have active registrations in more than one state.

• About 12 million records have incorrect addresses, meaning either the voters moved, or errors in the information make it unlikely any mailings can reach them.

Inaccurate voter rolls impose real costs on jurisdictions; as David Becker, director of Pew’s Elections team, observes: “These problems waste taxpayer dollars, undermine voter confidence, and fuel partisan disputes over the integrity of our elections.”

Fortunately – as is usually the case – Pew goes beyond simply identifying the problem to laying the groundwork for a solution. The Upgrading Voter Registration team – led by Becker but also including former Oregon state election director John Lindback and Ft. Wayne, IN’s own Sam Derheimer – has been working closely with election administrators and experts from more than 20 states to design a new approach that they believe will allow participating jurisdictions to upgrade voter rolls by

• comparing registration lists with other data sources, such as motor vehicle and National Change of Address records, to broaden the base of information used to update and verify voter rolls.

• implementing proven techniques and security protocols that use those data sources to better track and identify both inaccurate records that could be removed and eligible citizens who could be registered.

• minimizing manual data entry by establishing ways voters can submit information online, which will result in lower costs and fewer errors.

Already eight states – Colorado, Delaware, Maryland, Nevada, Oregon, Utah, Virginia and Washington – have signed on to participate. It’s a huge leap forward – but the numbers in Pew’s new study suggest that the gap to close is big enough that bold action is required.

This study – and the follow-on work – could literally transform election administration in the United States. If nothing else, bookmark the report for future reference; you’ll definitely be hearing about it again.

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