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Improving State Voter Registration Databases: Final Report
intended to identify possible duplicate registrations. The notion of a universal national identifier is itself politically controversial, and the committee takes no stand on the desirability of adopting such an identifier. Accuracy in the resolution of the identified possible duplicates could be enhanced through the use of tertiary data, as discussed in Appendix C under the discussion of third-party data.
Which states would wish to participate in a national VRD? The most likely participants are jurisdictions likely to contain the majority of duplicate registrations, that is, adjoining jurisdictions, jurisdictions that serve as “bedroom” communities for another, and jurisdictions that experience seasonal migration. However, the committee notes that connection to a national VRD eliminates the need for multiple bilateral jurisdictional data exchanges. Thus, if most states will eventually participate in one bilateral data exchange, that exchange may as well be with a national VRD—and subsequent bilateral exchanges will not be necessary.
As for the second purpose, the committee recognizes the political controversy in universal voter registration, and is explicitly silent on the desirability of universal voter registration as a policy choice. Furthermore, a full examination of the technical dimensions of universal voter registration would require more time and resources than are available to this committee. It suffices here to make several observations:
Universal or automatic voter registration generally calls for government authorities (especially state election officials) to use all available data sources (including those from state departments of motor vehicles (driver’s license records), tax rolls, social services agencies, and so on) to assemble lists of eligible voters. Obtaining cooperation from all of these government data sources is likely to require significant effort on the part of political leaders.
Significant coordination with federal immigration authorities and their databases may be needed to minimize the number of noncitizens added to the voter registration rolls. Such coordination is largely unnecessary today. In addition, noncitizens added inadvertently must be protected from legal harm so long as they do not try to vote.
The use of tertiary data to identify eligible voters is likely to enhance the accuracy and completeness of automatically compiled voter registration rolls.
Using any of these data sources is likely to be controversial from a privacy standpoint. As a general rule, privacy advocates are concerned when government authorities, whatever their mission, aggregate data from multiple sources. Some sources of data raise particular concerns—tax rolls, social services agencies, and private-sector sources might be included in this category.
Standards for data quality assurance would have to be developed and adopted as a part of any attempt to implement universal voter registration.
The overall cost of universal voter registration may be lower than today’s state-centric system, especially if the effort expended by individual voters in registration is taken into account. Resource-strapped counties particularly may benefit from universal voter registration.
Sustained funding for the voter registration enterprise will be even more necessary that it is today, given the larger role of government authorities in the process.
To the extent that a national VRD is used to support election officials for checking voter registrations in real time, security (e.g., against denial-of-service attacks) and system reliability and availability will be issues of concern.