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Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Voter Registration Problems

A new study from the Pew Center on the States finds serious problems with voter registration. From the press release:
Approximately 24 million active voter registrations in the United States—one of every eight—are no longer valid or have significant inaccuracies, according to the Pew Center on the States’ Election Initiatives. New research in the report Inaccurate, Costly, and Inefficient (PDF) underscores the need for registration systems that use the latest technology to better maintain voter records, save money, and streamline processes—an effort that eight states are spearheading with Pew’s support.
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.
The report itself highlights a cost of American federalism.  Having a separate registration system for each state is much more expensive than having a single one for the whole country.
The costs of maintaining a voter list in the United States are high when compared with our neighboring democracy, Canada, which spends only 35 cents per active voter to create and maintain its lists in a federal election year—one-twelfth the cost in the U.S.
According to a survey of election budgets in the United States conducted by the Caltech/MIT Voting Technology Project, county and local election offices spend approximately one-third of their budgets just on voter registration. In some jurisdictions, the total is even higher.