U.S. jurisdictions). Jurisdictions will post their data to STEVE in accordance with NAPHSIS contractual requirements for timeliness, which suggests that data recipients will receive data from jurisdictions in an uncoordinated manner—that is, from multiple sources.

A second source of authoritative data is the Social Security Administration’s Death Master File (DMF). This file contains a list of individuals with Social Security numbers and whose deaths were reported to the Social Security Administration from 1962 to the present and on individuals who died before 1962, but whose Social Security accounts were still active in 1962. The file is updated on a monthly and weekly basis, and these updates are made available for a fee by the National Technical Information Service of the U.S. Department of Commerce.14 A record in the file consists of

  • Given name and surname

  • Middle name

  • Full date of birth

  • Full date of death

  • Social Security number

  • State and Zip code of last residence

  • Zip code of the address designated by the individual to be the address of record for SSA purposes (such as sending benefits)

A death certificate usually includes the full address of record, as well as a full name, full SSN, and a full date of birth. So, the DMF contains essentially all of the information that death certificates contain (less full address), and because a death certificate is generally regarded as authoritative evidence that a given individual has died, it is plausible to use the DMF in a similar fashion. (Whether the DMF should be the only source used depends in part on latency issues. The DMF may well lag the issuance of death certificates by a few months; if more current data on deaths are available on deaths, election officials must make a tradeoff involving currency of data versus inconvenience of access.) (It is for this reason, among others, that departments of vital statistics have sought to develop STEVE.)

Matching a full VRD against the full SSA Death Master File (necessary because anyone in the VRD may have died in the past year) is a computational task that is comparable to that of matching the VRD of one state against that of another, although this task only needs to be done once—subsequent comparisons should use the smaller incremental files from the Death Master File against the full VRD. The data are approximately comparable in format and structure, with the possibility that the Zip codes on file for the DMF do not necessarily correspond to the decedent’s Zip codes of record for voting purposes.

Changes of Residence

The NVRA requires states to establish a program to use information supplied by the U.S. Postal Service (USPS) to identify registrants whose address may have changed; today, about 14 percent of the population changes an address every year.15 (In addition, jurisdictions with colleges or universities face challenges resulting from the transient nature of much of the eligible voting population.) Identifying voters who have moved is often based on periodic mailings that election officials send to all voters in the jurisdiction by U.S. mail, indicating on the envelope “do not forward” but rather return to sender. Notices that are returned to the election official are an indication that the voter may have moved.

The USPS does not automatically notify election officials of an individual’s change of address. Election officials must initiate address checks with USPS on their own. They have a choice of comparing selected records in the VRD or the entire VRD to the USPS National Change of Address (NCOA)


NTIS Products: Social Security Administration’s Death Master File, National Technical Information Service. See http://www.ntis.gov/products/ssa-dmf.aspx.


See U.S. Census Bureau, Geographical Mobility: 2006. Highlights from this series are available at http://www.census.gov/Press-Release/www/releases/archives/mobility_of_the_population/010755.html, and detailed tables are available at http://www.census.gov/population/www/socdemo/migrate.html.

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