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Challenges in Voter Registration

Part of the Elections, Voting, Technology book series (EVT)

Abstract

Since the adoption of the National Voter Registration Act (NVRA) of 1993, states have taken significant steps to modernize the voter registration process and to minimize errors in managing voter registration lists. Reforms such as Online Voter Registration, Election Day Registration, youth pre-registration, as well as Automatic Voter Registration decrease the burden for prospective voters, but they may still create challenges for election administrators insofar as efficiently entering and managing lists of registered voters. Evidence from provisional votes cast and accepted during the 2016 presidential election in North Carolina demonstrates that voter list maintenance issues can keep eligible voters off the voter rolls and deter them from casting a regular ballot. The local variation in how provisional voters are processed and the disproportionate impact on minority voters raises concerns of equity and also has broader implications about how election reforms are administered locally and across the states. Researchers are able to uncover such patterns by analyzing election administration and turnout data reported by states and localities to federal agencies such as the Election Assistance Commission (EAC). However, limitations remain due to inconsistent data reporting, which strongly demonstrates gaps in election data transparency across the states.

Keywords

  • Voter registration
  • NVRA
  • Provisional ballots
  • North Carolina

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Fig. 5.1
Fig. 5.2

Notes

  1. 1.

    The National Voter Registration Act (NVRA) of 1993. Available at https://www.justice.gov/crt/title-42-public-health-and-welfare-chapter-20-elective-franchise-subchapter-i-h-national-voter#anchor_1973gg.

  2. 2.

    U.S. Department of Justice. “Cases Raising Claims Under the National Voter Registration Act.” Available at https://www.justice.gov/crt/cases-raising-claims-under-national-voter-registration-act.

  3. 3.

    Pew Research Brief. June 21, 2017. “Why Are Millions of Citizens Not Registered to Vote?” Available at http://www.pewtrusts.org/en/research-and-analysis/issue-briefs/2017/06/why-are-millions-of-citizens-not-registered-to-vote#0-overview.

  4. 4.

    National Conference of State Legislatures. “Same Day Registration.” Available at http://www.ncsl.org/research/elections-and-campaigns/same-day-registration.aspx.

  5. 5.

    Brennan Center for Justice. “Automatic Voter Registration and Modernization in the States.” Available at https://www.brennancenter.org/analysis/automatic-voter-registration.

  6. 6.

    Oregon does not have SDR/EDR, as it conducts elections exclusively by mail.

  7. 7.

    Ohio in 2014 eliminated its “Golden Week” of registration, when voters could register to vote and cast an early in-person ballot the week prior to the voter registration deadline. https://www.nytimes.com/2016/09/14/us/politics/supreme-court-wont-restore-golden-week-voting-in-ohio.html.

  8. 8.

    The remaining 6.7% is categorized as “Other” or “Not Categorized” (EAC 2017).

  9. 9.

    Pew Charitable Trusts. “Election Performance Index: Data Visualization.” August 9, 2016. http://www.pewtrusts.org/en/research-and-analysis/data-visualizations/2014/elections-performance-index#indicatorProfile-RR.

  10. 10.

    The National Voter Registration Act (NVRA) of 1993. https://www.justice.gov/crt/title-42-public-health-and-welfare-chapter-20-elective-franchise-subchapter-i-h-national-voter#anchor_1973gg.

  11. 11.

    The National Conference of State Legislatures. August 17, 2017. “Absentee and Early Voting.” http://www.ncsl.org/research/elections-and-campaigns/absentee-and-early-voting.aspx.

  12. 12.

    Ingraham, Christopher. July 20, 2017. “This Anti-Voter-Fraud-Program Gets It Wrong Over 99% of the Time: The GOP Wants to Take It Nationwide.” The Washington Post. https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/wonk/wp/2017/07/20/this-anti-voter-fraud-program-gets-it-wrong-over-99-of-the-time-the-gop-wants-to-take-it-nationwide/?noredirect=on&utm_term=.a15224206514.

  13. 13.

    Section 1973gg-6(b)(2) of the National Voter Registration Act.

  14. 14.

    Michael C. Herron and Daniel A. Smith. “If More States Start Using Ohio’s System, How Many Voters Will Be Purged?” The Washington Post. June 17, 2018. https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/monkey-cage/wp/2018/06/17/if-every-u-s-state-used-ohios-system-how-many-voters-would-be-purged/?noredirect = on&utm_term = .1957a41079c0.

  15. 15.

    2016 Statutory Overview Individual State Responses. https://www.eac.gov/research-and-data/2016-election-administration-voting-survey/.

  16. 16.

    Burke, Cleveland, Franklin, Gates, Granville, Harnett, Jones, Sampson, Swain, Warren Counties.

  17. 17.

    Michael P. McDonald, Peter Licari, and Thessalia Merivaki. “The Cost of Using Big Data in Elections,” The Washington Post. October 18, 2015. https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/the-big-cost-of-using-big-data-in-elections/2015/10/18/cb7bdf6c-7443-11e5-8248-98e0f5a2e830_story.html?utm_term=.1e2332ed9f92.

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Merivaki, T., Smith, D.A. (2020). Challenges in Voter Registration. In: Brown, M., Hale, K., King, B. (eds) The Future of Election Administration. Elections, Voting, Technology. Palgrave Macmillan, Cham. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-14947-5_5

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