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Changes of Address and the National Voter Registration Act

November 23, 2016

Under the NVRA, when you change your address at the DMV, it's supposed to update your voter registration as well. Too many states are failing to comply with this law. This new report summarizes the scope of the problem, and offers solutions.

Representational Bias in the 2014 Electorate

August 1, 2016

In the latest report, Representational Bias in the 2014 Electorate, Project Vote Research Director LaShonda Brenson, Ph.D., analyzes Census Bureau data to identify who was eligible to vote, who was registered to vote, and who really did vote, in the 2014 midterm election. By comparing rates across several election cycles, it identifies trends in registration and voter turnout according to race, ethnicity, income, age, gender, and a number of other demographic categories, in order to determine where the gaps in representation still exist.

Automatic Voter Registration: Two NVRA-Compliant Models

July 15, 2016

A new, comprehensive report explains two models for how states can implement automatic voter registration while remaining compliant with the voter registration requirements of the National Voter Registration Act (NVRA).

Restricting Voter Registration Drives

July 1, 2010

Community-based voter registration organizations -- whether they are partisan or non-partisan, secular or religious, paid or volunteer -- serve as critical intermediaries between states and citizens who are currently alienated from the political process. While there are other mechanisms for reaching the tens of millions of eligible Americans who are still not registered to vote -- including the National Voter Registration Act's "motor voter" and public assistance agency programs -- there is still no substitute for the simple, affirmative act of sending voter registration canvassers into America's neighborhoods to help community members complete voter regsitration applications.Such voter registration drives, of course, have long been a feature of American politics, and have helped countless Americans become registered voters. But the 2008 election cycle marked a recent high water mark, as a surge of interest in voting and an historically unprecedented presidential race saw many community-based drives achieving record numbers of applications. This tremendous success, however, elicited an organized backlash that came in two parts. The first part consisted of exaggerated or inaccurate allegations of voter registration fraud, many of which were uncritically reported by the media despite an astonishing absence of factual basis. The second, perhaps more damaging form of backlash came in the introduction of a series of state bills, many of which have passed into law, that were designed to significantly restrict voter registration drives in a number of states. These new laws are the focus of this report , which examines restrictions on voter registration drives, gives examples from several states, and concludes with some reasonable policy recommendations.

Restoring Voting Rights to Former Felons

April 1, 2010

In all but two states, citizens with felony convictions are prohibited from voting either permanently or temporarily, though the momentum seems to be slowly shifting towards re-enfranchisement. With many states taking steps to expand access for former felons in recent years, the Democracy Restoration Act currently pending in Congress, and an increasing number of legislators and advocates calling for restoration, the time may be right for this important issue. This new policy paper explains the inconsistent ways in which states regulate or prevent voting by former felons, summarizes legal challenges to disenfranchisement, and explores how disenfranchisement unfairly disadvantages minority communities. It concludes with policy recommendations for fair and consistent felon re-enfranchisement laws.

Expanding the Youth Electorate through Preregistration

March 1, 2010

It is an important rite of passage as a young adult in America: taking one'splace in the democratic process by registering to vote and casting a ballot.Unfortunately, too many young citizens do not take advantage of thisopportunity.Research shows that preregistration policies targeting 16- and 17-year-oldcitizens not only help to increase civic participation among young people,but also enfranchise a broader range of America's youth, particularly thosefrom historically underrepresented populations. Empowering this untappedpool of future voters can help reduce historical disparities in the electoratefor future generations with just a simple, inexpensive adjustment in theadministration of elections.This legislative brief discusses the underrepresentation of youth -- particularlyyouth of color -- in the general electorate, and how the growing trend ofpreregistration helps to address this problem. It concludes with recommendationsfor implementing preregistration policies.

Ensuring that Provisional Ballots are Counted

February 1, 2010

Americans may find it surprising to learn that many eligible citizens in the United States are denied the right to cast ballots and have them counted on Election Day. The sad reality is that many voters are turned away from polls because their names do not appear on a list of registered voters, for a host of different reasons that may or may not be the responsibility of the individual voter.To correct this problem, Congress enacted "fail-safe" provisional voting requirements in the Help America Vote Act of 2002 (HAVA), 42 U.S.C. S 15301, et seq. Under Section 302 of HAVA, election officials are required to provide provisional ballots to individuals who are not listed on the official list of registered voters but believe themselves to be properly registered and eligible to vote. Once the appropriate election officials determine that the individual is indeed eligible to vote, the ballot is counted. The results of this HAVA mandate have been mixed. In some situations, poll workers have failed to offer provisional ballots to voters at all. In cases where poll workers have actually offered ballots to voters, states have applied such varying methodologies for counting provisional ballots that the "fail-safe" mechanism under HAVA has been frustrated.This legislative brief outlines the reasons why thousands of provisional ballots have not been counted since the passage of HAVA, and why the use of provisional ballots should be limited. It also provides policy recommendations which, if implemented by all states, would increase the likelihood that a voter's provisional ballot would count.

Voter Intimidation and Caging

February 1, 2010

The right to vote has been one of the most challenged individual rights in the history of this country. Unfortunately, illegal and cynical attempts to suppress the vote and manipulate voters persist to this day. Among the strategies used are voter intimidation and caging. This legislative brief defines voter intimidation and voter caging and offers recommendations on how to deter or prevent these illegal tactics to suppress voters.

No Match, No Vote

February 1, 2010

Responding to the loud wake-up call sounded in the 2000 election, Congress passed the Help America Vote Act (HAVA) in 2002, including provisions to streamline and modernize voter registration databases and establish identification requirements. However, in direct contravention of the intent of HAVA -- to impose fair and more uniform standards for state election administration -- some states have misinterpreted the law and passed onerous"No Match, No Vote" laws.Under such statutes, if a state is unable to match the information on a voter's registration application with information in an existing government database, the application is denied outright. Many of these non-matches, however, can be the result of errors outside of the applicant's control such as typographical data entry errors, flaws in existing governmental databases, and poor database matching protocols. By making it more difficult and sometimes impossible for applicants to register to vote, No Match, No Vote laws can and do disenfranchise qualified citizens. Shortly before the 2008 election, Time magazinedeclared the "Database Dilemma" number one on their list of "Things That Could Go Wrong on Election Day."As this paper will demonstrate, plenty of research exists to show that matching voter data with other government databases -- though required by HAVA -- is an unreliable, error-laden process, and that conditioning the right to vote on such a flawed system will inevitably disenfranchise eligible citizens. HAVA's verification provisions were put into place to improve state database management and facilitate accurate record keeping. These provisions were written to ensure that every voter's registration record has a unique number associated with it to allow states to easily identify duplicate registration records with greater confidence and determine and eliminate voters no longer eligible to vote in that jurisdiction.2 As the legislative history points out, it was not HAVA's intent in requiringa match to disenfranchise those otherwise eligible applicants whose data does not match exactly. Therefore, in order to comply with federal law while maintaining the rights of its citizens to vote, states should follow the best practices discussed below.

Interstate Compacts

February 1, 2010

In recent years a number of states have decided to compare their voter databases in an effort to cancel out-of-date registrations. Since the Help America Vote Act (HAVA) of 2002 required states to create and maintain electronic statewide databases of all registered voters, an increasing number of states have joined interstate compacts to facilitate data sharing across a wide area.This memo summarizes which states are conducting interstate matching programs, how each state uses the resulting data, and the potential problems of using the information from crosschecking to cancel registrations.

Representational Bias in the 2008 Electorate.

November 1, 2009

Representational Bias in the 2008 Electorate reviews the story of who was eligible to vote, who was registered to vote, and who did vote in the 2008 general election. Analyzing the November Voting and Registration supplements of the U.S. Census Bureau's Current Population Survey, the report offers detailed information on registration rates and voting behavior based on key demographic factors, including race/ethnicity, age, gender and marital status, income, education, residential mobility, and disability status. The report also provides registration and turnout rates for each state, with comparative rankings. By comparing this data with those from other recent elections, the report presents a picture of the growing electorate in the United States, and identifies the changes in the extent to which participation in our federal elections is -- and is not -- representative of the population that is eligible to vote in America.

Internet Access and Voter Registration

June 1, 2009

Despite some gains made in the 2007-2008 election cycle, it is clear that significant problems with the U.S. voter registration system persist. Disparities in demographic representation in the registered electorate remain, particularly in categories of race/ethnicity, income, educational attainment, and age.These disparities are exacerbated by federal and state laws that govern voter registration systems, which often create multi-layered barriers to voter registration. After the historic election of November 2008, proposals to improve the U.S. voter registration system have been offered at both the federal and state level. One proposal, which has already been adopted in several states, is to allow voter registration via the internet.3 While online voter registration is a welcome new service, it is important to note that it has limitations, particularly when it comes to closing the existing demographic disparities in the voter registration rates. One obvious limitation of online voter registration is that not all U.S. households have internet access in the home.This memo reviews available data to describe those U.S. households that do not have internet access in the home, and analyzes voter registration levels in those households based on race/ethnicity, age, educational attainment, and household income. In most cases, the demographic groups that are already less likely to be registered are also the least likely to have internet access in the home.