A number of steps can be taken to minimize the effect of data entry errors.
Sample audits can be undertaken to assess the degree of the problem and to identify the source— some data entry personnel, for example, may be much less accurate than others. Some systems produce daily data entry reports that can be compared against the original card for errors; such systems are used in a number of jurisdictions.
The registrant can be provided with a copy of the data that were actually entered (for example, when a voter receives his or her registration card, which should in most cases reflect all of the data entered on behalf of the voter), reminded to check the data, and given information on how to contact the election jurisdiction if there are errors on the card. (To maintain security of personal information, the card should be mailed in a sealed envelope.)
During the input process, the entered values can be tested against domains (for example, common names,7 valid addresses including street name and postal code, valid phone numbers, valid dates of birth).
Data can be entered twice by different people and compared for discrepancies (an expensive way to check, but effective in most instances).
Discrepancies can be found when matching new inputs to previously known values (an ideal way to detect transposition keying errors in dates of birth, for example).
When errors or inconsistencies in the entered data are found, they should be immediately corrected. In some cases, an examination of the records themselves will indicate how corrections should be made; in other cases, it may be necessary to consult additional data sources or even the voter to make the necessary corrections. For example, election officials might provide a special telephone number for voters to call to make corrections.
The first two of these steps (sample audits and the voter being provided a copy) can be taken in a relatively short time frame. The other three require a nontrivial amount of new technology deployment.
Lastly, voter registration forms should ask the applicant to provide (voluntarily) e-mail addresses and/or SMS (text message)-enabled cell numbers in order to facilitate contact with the applicant—such contact may well be necessary in order to clarify other information that is unclear on the registration form.
Recommendation S-8: Allow selected individuals to suppress address information on public disclosures of voter registration status.
Although voter registration information is nominally public in most states, certain individuals (e.g., domestic violence victims, undercover police officers, witness protection program participants, and so on) have legitimate and understandable reasons for wanting to make address information inaccessible to the public, and an administrative process should be available to protect such information on request. Indeed, some states (such as New Mexico, California, Oregon, Missouri, and Kansas) already provide for such suppression under certain circumstances.
Defining who can and cannot suppress address information involves a balancing of privacy and other interests. Advocates of more open records might argue that the public interest is best served by a relatively narrow scope of individuals who should be granted such privileges, whereas some privacy advocates might argue for the broadest possible scope. The committee is silent on this particular point.
Comparing the name entered as data against common names is a useful process for suggesting the possible occurrence of data-entry error. But correcting a name based only on such a comparison might well introduce error. “Jazmine” as the real first name of an individual might be compared against the more common name “Jasmine,” but “correcting” the spelling of “Jazmine” to “Jasmine” would be an error. In such situations, the indication of a possible error suggests the need to re-check the transcription against the original voter forms in order to prevent the introduction of error at the error-correction stage.