National Academies Releases Interim Report on Voter Registration Databases

By David Bruggeman
April 14, 2008

The Committee on State Voter Registration Databases of the National Research Council released an interim report last week. An ad hoc committee under the Computer Science and Telecommunications Board, and sponsored by the Election Assistance Commission, this committee is charged to identify and address issues and concerns associated with operating statewide voter registration databases.

The committee’s interim report is available online (registration required to read a free PDF file). The report is based on two public workshops and other work of the committee since mid-2007. The report is a compilation of recommended practices for populating and maintaining a statewide voter registration database. The report breaks its recommendations into two groups: those that can happen before the 2008 election, and those that would take more time. The recommended short term changes are:

SHORT-TERM ACTIONS—PUBLIC EDUCATION AND DISSEMINATION OF INFORMATION

• Raise public awareness about the legibility and the completeness of voter registration card information. Jurisdictions could take some or all of the following specific steps:

⎯Emphasize in the instructions for filling out voter registration forms the importance of legibility and completeness (for example, “Please print all responses; if your answers are illegible, your application may be mis-entered, rejected, or returned to you.”).
⎯Conduct media campaigns emphasizing the importance of legibility and completeness in the information provided on voter registration forms.
⎯Coordinate with third-party voter registration groups and public service agencies, emphasizing the need for their field volunteers to attend to legibility and completeness as they distribute and/or collect registration materials.

SHORT-TERM ACTIONS—ADMINISTRATIVE PROCESSES
AND PROCEDURES

• Resubmit match queries if the response returned from the Social Security Administration or department of motor vehicles is a nonmatch.
• Provide human review of all computer-indicated removal decisions.
• Improve the transparency of procedures for adding voters and for list maintenance.
• Use fill-in online registration forms.
• Perform empirical testing on the adequacy of processes for adding to and maintenance of lists.
• Take steps to minimize errors during data entry.
• Allow selected individuals to suppress address information on public disclosures of voter registration status.
• Encourage (but do not require) entities sponsoring voter registration drives to submit voter registration forms in a timely manner to reduce massive influxes at the registration deadline.