Tens of millions of Americans – as many as one in six – change their address every year. In any five-year period, approximately 45 percent of the U.S. population moves. All this moving poses big challenges for election administrators – and voters.
To assist states in bringing their voter registration systems into the twenty-first century, this report examines the permanent registration systems and the associated tools already in place across the country. First we define permanent registration and describe the elements of a system of permanent registration. Next, we lay out the technological and policy tools that facilitate permanent registration, noting the states in which these tools are already employed. We then describe the three basic models states have adopted to achieve permanent registration using Election Day tools. We also describe the techniques that some states employ to automatically update voters’ addresses to move closer to permanent registration and achieve more accurate voter rolls on Election Day. Because of the substantial benefits to voters and election officials, we recommend that all states establish permanent registration, and conclude with recommendations for developing effective systems of permanent registration.