Strength in Numbers: Minnesota Joins ERIC Voter Registration Exchange

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[Image courtesy of shinguardian]

I’ve written numerous times over the three-plus years of this blog about the need for jurisdictions to band together on issues of election administration – especially sharing voter registration information to account for the increasing mobility of the population and the electorate. This “strength in numbers” approach helps election offices get a better handle on the influx and outflow of voters from their rolls – and reduces the opportunities for error and the risk of fraud.

Those efforts got a big boost yesterday when Minnesota became the first Midwestern state to join the Electronic Registration Information Center (ERIC), a multistate collaborative started with the support of The Pew Charitable Trusts. MinnPost has more:

Minnesota has joined a multistate consortium that will help provide more accurate voter registration to officials at the polls.

As a new member of [ERIC], officials say Minnesota will now compare Minnesota’s voter rolls to Minnesota’s driver’s license database, the Social Security Administration’s death information and other states’ voter rolls.

Also in the consortium are the District of Columbia, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Louisiana, Maryland, Nevada, Oregon, Utah, Virginia and Washington.

Officials say the new data will help update records for voters who moved in-state, and clean up clerical errors on voter registration records.

The Minnesota Secretary of State’s office will provide the new, updated information to counties, so voter registration officials can identify and eliminate duplicate, deceased and out-of-state voter records.

The system not only tracks existing voters, it gives participating states a way to bring new eligible but unregistered people into the system:

Under the new system, Minnesota also will mail postcards “to voting-age Minnesotans with driver’s licenses or state IDs, who, according to the computer match, do not appear to be registered to vote.” Look for those in the mail this week (although MinnPost readers surely are registered already, right?).

Finally, the combination of ERIC and improved voter-facing tools gives the rolls system-wide as well as voter-level protection:

[S]tate officials say some registered voters may also get the postcards, if their driver’s license or state ID records do not match up exactly to an existing voter registration record. If you get a card, and believe you already are registered, you you can check the registration online at mnvotes.org. If the registration look-up tool confirms that you are registered at your current address, no further action is necessary. If the look-up does not confirm the registration, you can register online at mnvotes.org and correct any errors.

Much of ERIC’s future success hinges on new states joining the collaborative. As they do, the pool of voters expands and the likelihood of catching a voter’s move from point A to point B improves. Indeed, Pew has research that suggests that list quality is demonstrably better in participating ERIC states.

Kudos to policymakers in Minnesota for their efforts to make this move. Here’s hoping that the North Star State’s move can open up the Midwest to greater participation – and open up even more “new markets” for this 21st-century approach to election administration.

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