As the Commission noted, "accurate voter lists are essential to the management of elections." Americans are increasingly mobile -- roughly 12 percent moved in 2012 -- and voters' records may be on the rolls in multiple localities and states. Federal law requires state elections officials to maintain and regularly review voter registration lists. However, there is a need to go beyond current law to ensure lists are as accurate as possible. Indeed, "as many as eight percent of registration records (representing 16 million people) are invalid and significantly inaccurate." And an estimated 51 million Americans -- or 25 percent of the eligible voting population -- remain unregistered.
Unlike many democracies, our federal government does not currently register its citizens or facilitate the process for states. (Note, though, that legislation was recently introduced to do just that.) The Commission recommended that states form networks to track voters moving within and out of state to ensure addresses are updated. (Deaths and name changes are also tracked.) Duplicate records may be purged only after a statistically sound check is conducted to protect against error.
As noted by the Commission, only two systems now allow for registration cross-checks. The first, Interstate Voter Registration Crosscheck Program (IVRC), is run by Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach and dubbed the "Kansas Project." One of its primary aims, in addition to making registration rolls accurate, is to seek out duplicative registration records and identify what it believes to be evidence of voter fraud. The practices of participating states in attempting to identify such fraud, though, are not entirely transparent, and most of the few allegations forwarded to prosecutors have not resulted in charges. Moreover, the comparisons between lists are done manually and are thus labor-intensive.
The second system, Electronic Registration Information Center (ERIC), is much more reliable. States participating in ERIC check their voter registration lists against data collected by other states and available on national databases to identify potential moves, deaths, name changes, and unregistered individuals. States using ERIC can identify, and reach out to, individuals not yet registered, unlike those using IRVC. Adoption of online voter registration (states are urged in their membership agreements to allow for online voter registration), plus inclusion in ERIC, is a more comprehensive way for states to broaden their voter bases. While implementation of ERIC carries some upfront costs, states in the system recover those costs within two to four years, and continue to save money, especially as they rely less on paper systems, print-outs, and mailings. The system is also safe: information shared among states is first encrypted for privacy.
Roughly half the country and nine of the ten states we examined -- Georgia, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Colorado, Louisiana, Alaska, Arkansas, North Carolina, and Kentucky -- are current members of the IVRC. Florida opted in for only one year in 2013; Colorado and Louisiana, both members of IVRC, also participate in ERIC. Ideally, all ten states would cut ties with the IVRC and, instead, subscribe to ERIC, which is a much more effective system, with more safeguards against needless dropping of current voters and additional mechanisms to expand registration.
|FINDINGS BY STATE|