For Immediate Release
Contact: Jeanine Plant-Chirlin, 212–998–6289
New York – The Brennan Center for Justice today releases the first in-depth survey of two key voter registration modernization reforms at the state level. The study finds that as states modernize their voter registration process, they save millions, produce more accurate and reliable rolls, and see an increase in registration rates.
Based on extensive research and interviews with election officials in fifteen states, Voter Registration in a Digital Age shows that paperless registration procedures are simple to develop, easy to maintain, and enjoy broad-based support. The report examines the growing adoption of “automated” voter registration, in which government agencies like DMVs collect and transfer voter registrations electronically; and online voter registration, in which citizens submit registration applications over the Internet.
Both of these reforms mark important steps toward a modern voter registration system. Under a fully modern system, as proposed by the Brennan Center last year, government agencies would automatically register consenting eligible citizens, who then stay registered even when they move. Fail-safe procedures would be in place so that voters could check and correct any errors they find in the rolls online and at the polls.
“In the decade since the Florida election mess, voting systems have improved somewhat, but not enough. Voter registration is still inefficient and prone to error and controversy. Fortunately, the common sense solution of paperless voter registration is gaining traction and offers to bring the system into the 21st century. That’s good news as we enter a new election season,” says Wendy Weiser, editor of the report, who will be presenting the findings this week at the annual conference of the National Association of Secretaries of State.
This modernization trend comes years after the Help America Vote Act of 2002—federal legislation that laid the groundwork for innovations to improve the voter registration process. It also works in tandem with other federal reform efforts, such as the Military and Overseas Voter Act, which goes into effect next year, and Representative Zoe Lofgren’s online voter registration bill pending in the House. Senator Schumer has pledged to work on a broader voter registration modernization bill.
In the past two years alone, eleven states have developed paperless voter registration systems, and many others have begun taking steps toward reform. Delaware and Kansas did away with paper voter registration forms at Departments of Motor Vehicles, joining over a dozen other states that send voter information electronically to registrars. California, Nevada, and North Carolina will soon let voters register online, as they already can in Arizona, Colorado, Delaware, Kansas, Louisiana, Oregon, Utah and Washington. This year a bipartisan commission convened by the governor of Utah, Republican Jon Huntsman, Jr., unanimously recommended that the state adopt the full range of voter registration reforms. Commissions in the District of Columbia and Ohio did so as well.
Voter Registration in a Digital Age, authored by Brennan Center Pro Bono Counsel Christopher Ponoroff, also outlines how the process works, reviews its development, and assesses its impact.
Among the study’s key findings:
- Paperless registrations produce fewer errors than paper forms and reduce opportunities for fraud.
- It cost Arizona less than $130,000 and Washington state just $279,000 to implement both online voter registration and automated voter registration at Departments of Motor Vehicle.
- Delaware’s paperless voter registration at DMVs saves election officials more than $200,000 annually, above the savings they reaped by partially automating the process in the mid-1990s. Officials anticipate further savings.
- After DMV voter registrations have nearly doubled in Washington and Kansas, and increased by even more in Rhode Island.
For more information or to set up an interview, please contact Jeanine Plant-Chirlin at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 212–998–6289.