Working to find actionable solutions to the nation's key challenges.

Securing the Voting Rolls While Improving Access

By Matthew Weil

Thursday, February 1, 2018

Election administrators work every day to ensure that people who want to be registered to vote can do so. Our local and state election officials are charged with keeping voting rolls secure and accurate, which means removing ineligible voters once they no longer reside in a state or die, while also verifying that those who are attempting to register meet all registration requirements. These officials should also be doing all they can to make sure that all voters can access the voter registration systems and proactively identify eligible citizens in their jurisdictions. It all makes for a difficult balancing act.

To facilitate more accurate rolls and to continue the march toward modernizing voter registration for all Americans, the states themselves have created a cooperative organization to share voter registration data, to compare with state driver’s license systems, and to identify and reach out to eligible but unregistered voters in their states. That cooperative—the ERIC program, which now boasts 23 members including the District of Columbia—is a bipartisan success that includes very Democratic, very Republican, and traditionally toss-up states as members. In an exciting end to 2017 and beginning of 2018, Missouri and Arizona joined the ERIC program.

So why did the most recent of new members join?

“Every vote matters,” said Missouri Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft. “It’s imperative that we as election officials do all we can to safeguard our elections, and to make certain that every registered voter can have their say on election day.”

Ashcroft added, “We commend the Bipartisan Policy Center for their continued advocacy of states’ participation with ERIC, commitment to stopping voter fraud, increasing voter participation, and lowering the cost of election administration for taxpayers.”

“Every vote matters,” said Missouri Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft.

“Our participation in ERIC will decrease provisional ballots as well as reduce the number of voters on the rolls who don’t live in Arizona anymore,” said Arizona Secretary of State Michele Reagan.  “Our counties work hard to ensure the registration database is accurate and this tool will enhance their ability to keep our data as accurate as possible.

Reagan added, “We’re grateful for national efforts—like those of the Bipartisan Policy Center—in connecting state policymakers to the benefits of voter registration modernization and the recommendations of the Presidential Commission on Election Administration. The meeting the BPC co-sponsored in Arizona brought together the various stakeholders necessary to get this done.”

BPC is working with several other states considering joining ERIC soon as well as assisting states new to the program with implementation.

The Presidential Commission on Election Administration, or PCEA—which we host at BPC— recommends interstate data matching of records. In its 2014 report, the commission urged “state programs to share data and to collaborate in the synchronization of voter lists so that the states, on their own initiative, come as close as possible to creating an accurate database of the eligible electorate.” There is no one voter registration list in this country, and any given state traditionally has had no idea who another state had on its voter registration rolls.

With more data to compare against, member states are more likely to find cross state movers in the data matching process.

We have a very mobile electorate in this country, and it is easy to find one’s name on multiple states’ voter rolls if you have moved across state lines. While there are some procedures in place to remove voters from the voter rolls of the previous state or states of residence, they take time and are not always carried out consistently. States that share their voter rolls with each other can start the process more quickly, which leads to more accurate rolls.

The PCEA report outlined some basic goals for interstate data sharing as well as potential process improvements. The report says that programs like ERIC “should strive to improve the accuracy of voter registration records, enhance the ability to detect ineligible voting and prosecute voter fraud, reduce administrative costs, and increase registration rates. Doing so will help achieve management efficiencies and enhance these programs’ appeal to the states that have yet to join in these collaborative ventures.”

Of course, with more data to compare against, member states are more likely to find cross state movers in the data matching process. The Bipartisan Policy Center wishes to add its congratulations to both Arizona and Missouri for taking this smart step forward for their voters.

KEYWORDS: PRESIDENTIAL COMMISSION ON ELECTION ADMINISTRATION