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Guidance on State Voter Registration Databases

August 1, 2005

For Immediate Release
Monday, August 1, 2005

Contact Information:
Natalia Kennedy, 212 998–6736
Wendy Weiser, 212 998–6130
Justin Levitt, 212 992–8158

Guidance on State Voter Registration Databases Features Important Protections for Voters

New York, NY The Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law cautiously praised the new and vastly improved voter registration database guidance released by the U.S. Election Assistance Commission (EAC), an independent federal agency charged with improving the administration of federal elections. The EACs guidance, which will be published in the Federal Register on August 3rd, explains how states should implement the federal requirement that existing voter registration lists be replaced with coordinated statewide databases by January 1, 2006.

This guidance is an important step toward addressing the real danger that, without adequate protections for voters rights, the new statewide databases could disenfranchise many eligible voters, said Brennan Center Associate Counsel Wendy Weiser, who had provided detailed testimony and comments on an earlier draft of the guidance. Many of the Brennan Centers proposals were adopted in the EACs final guidance.

Although the guidance does not address all of the potential problems with voter databases, Weiser added, it includes many important recommendations that, if adopted by the states, will reduce the number of eligible voters who are kept off the rolls, will help prevent unjust purges, will better protect voters privacy, and will improve database security.

The EAC and the database guidance are both products of the federal Help America Vote Act (HAVA), which was passed in 2002 in the wake of nationwide concern that up to three million eligible voters were denied the right to vote in 2000 because of election administration errors. HAVA sought to address the problem of disenfranchisement in several ways, including by requiring that each state set up a single electronic voter database. But without sufficient safeguards, these state databases could create more problems than they solve. The Brennan Center had criticized an earlier draft of the guidance for failing to address how states should protect voters rights as they implement their statewide databases. Recognizing that databases are fallible and may be subject to abuse, the final guidance now urges states to adopt a number of safeguards to ensure that voters rights are preserved. The Brennan Center will continue to work to make sure that states in fact adopt these protections.

The Brennan Center for Justice unites thinkers and advocates in pursuit of a vision of inclusive and effective democracy.