All states take steps to keep their voter registration rolls accurate and up-to-date. The goal of maintaining an accurate voter list is to prevent ineligible people from voting, prevent anyone from voting twice and, by reducing inaccuracies, speed up the voter check-in process at polling places. How states do this can vary, but most have processes in place for removing records of duplicate records, deceased voters, felons and people who have moved. These checks can be conducted with data from federal agencies, state agencies, or other states.
Below is a snapshot of some of the ways that states check the accuracy of their voter rolls.
States use data from federal agencies, including the Social Security Administration, the Department of Homeland Security and the United States Post Office, to verify voter information at the registration stage and to ensure accuracy of the voter list.
- Social Security Administration
- Virginia statute requires that on or before Oct. 1 of each year the State Board conducts a match of the Virginia registered voter lists with the list of deceased persons maintained by the Social Security Administration (Va. Code §24.2-404.3).
- Nevada requires the Department of Motor Vehicles to verify the accuracy of information in a voter registration application with the Social Security Administration (Nev. Rev. Stat. §293.675).
- Washington checks the last four digits of the social security number of a newly registered voter against the Department of Licensing or the Social Security Administration’s records (Wash. Rev. Code §29A.08.107).
State Agency Checks
Many states have programs through which the state election agency can cross-check the voter registration database with the information from other state agencies, including departments of vital statistics, the agencies that handles motor vehicle records, death records and felon records, and jury lists.
States cooperate in a variety of ways to ensure the accuracy of the voter registration rolls and to prevent duplicate voter records. If a new voter in a state fills out a voter registration form and indicates that he was a registered voter in another state previously, jurisdictions will typically inform the other state that the voter has moved.
In recent years there has also been an increased focus on interstate database comparisons through projects such as the Electronic Registration Information Center (ERIC) and the Interstate Voter Cross-Check Program. These systems allow participating states to directly compare their data to identify potential duplicate registrations or inaccuracies.
Some states have found that their current statutes allow them to participate in an interstate cross-check program without new legislation. Other states have needed to pass authorizing legislation to participate in the program. Typically this legislation provides the chief elections officer authority to share voter registration data and other vital data with other states for voter registration purposes. These bills commonly include language requiring the chief elections officer to do whatever is necessary to protect private data from disclosure. Here are some examples:
In 2013 Virginia permitted the state elections board to cooperate with other states and jurisdictions to develop systems to compare voters, voter history and voter registration lists (Va. Code §24.2-404).
Nevada allows for any information which the Secretary of State deems necessary to maintain the statewide voter registration list to be shared with other states (Nev. Rev. Stat. §293.675).
Connecticut allows the secretary to cross reference the information in the voter registration system with data or information contained in any state agency's database, a database administered by the federal government, or any voter registration database of another state (Conn. Gen. Stat. §9-19k).
Ohio allows the secretary of state to enter into agreements to share information or data with other states or groups of states in order to maintain the statewide voter registration database (Ohio Rev. Code Ann. §3503.15).
Process for Removing Voters
The process of “purging” or removing voters from the voter rolls is important for ensuring that voter rolls are accurate, up-to-date and do not contain duplicate records. In order to maintain the accuracy of the voter list, states have processes in place to remove voters because of a variety of reasons: death, felony conviction, mental incapacitation, change of address, or duplicate records. The systems that check for duplicate records or ineligible voters usually do not automatically remove the voters. When a state receives information that an individual on the voter list is no longer eligible from one of the checks listed above, most states (though not all) require that the election jurisdiction first contacts the individual. Typically the state will send out a card to the voter, wait for a given period of time and if there is no response the voter will be removed, cancelled or moved to an inactive list.
The process for purging voters varies state to state.
- Virginia, for example, keeps a permanent, separate list of those who were removed due to death or a felony conviction and a list of all removed voters, along with the reason for their removal, for four years (Va. Code §24.2-404).
- When a registrar in Louisiana receives word that a voter is ineligible or has moved, the voter is first moved to the inactive list while the registrar confirms the voter’s status. If a voter is on the inactive list for two general election cycles, his voter record is cancelled (La. Acts §18.193).