Voter Registration

Report on Registration Systems in American Elections

Working Paper No.: 
118
Date Published: 
06/26/2013
Author(s): 
Stephen Ansolabehere, Harvard University
Charles Stewart III, MIT

The Voter Registration System is essential for the management of precincts, handling of ballots, authentication of voters, and communications with voters. The Registration system is massive, with 191.8 million records and 130.3 million voters.

The Registration system is decentralized, managed by 8,000 different local election offices as well as 50 state offices and used at 186,000 different precincts on Election Day. Decentralized use of the lists is a necessity of running elections at many different precincts and through county offices.

Needed -- a 21st century voter registration system for California

Link to Article: 
Newspaper: 
San Francisco Chronicle
Date Published: 
05/29/2011
Author(s): 
R. Michael Alvarez
Caltech
Dean Logan
Op-Ed
The world looks to California for 21st century innovation, especially for the application of technology that makes life less costly and more efficient. Californians are well into the 21st century, working in the cloud, using smart phones and tablet computers, and getting their entertainment on-demand by satellite. But when it comes to voter registration, California seems to be stuck in the 18th century. State law won't allow eligible citizens in our state to register online until at least 2015 -- and maybe much later.

State of the Nation

Link to Article: 
Newspaper: 
Boston Review
Date Published: 
07/27/2010
Author(s): 
Eitan Hersh
Department of Government
Harvard University
Article
Voter registration is the backbone of the American electoral system. Registration problems create barriers to voting and make it difficult for administrators to communicate with voters, identify voters at the polls, and audit elections after the fact. Reforms following the 2000 election sought to improve the accuracy and currency of the voter-registration lists. Most important, all states now have statewide voter files. So how good are the files today?

Election Day Voter Registration in Iowa

Date Published: 
11/30/2008
Author(s): 
R. Michael Alvarez
Jonathan Nagler
We have analyzed the likely impact of adoption of election day registration (EDR) by the state of Iowa. Consistent with existing research on the impact of EDR in other circumstances, we find that EDR would likely lead to substantial increases in voter turnout. We are able to offer the following estimates of increases in turnout for Iowa, and for specific groups of Iowans under EDR:
  • Overall turnout could go up by 4.9 percent.
  • Turnout among those aged 18 to 25 could increase by 10.7 percent under EDR.

Final Report: Oct '06 VTP Conference on Voter Registration & Authentication

Date Published: 
11/30/2008
Author(s): 
Voting Technology Project
No abstract available.

Voter Removal from Registration List Based on Name Matching is Unreliable

Date Published: 
11/30/2008
Author(s): 
Alexandre Buer
Ted Selker
The voter registration list is the information backbone for the administration of elections. Keeping it up-to-date is a difficult task that can expose officials to accusations of voter disenfranchisement. We review here some of the problems that affected Florida elections, explore some solutions proposed with the Help America Vote Act of 2002 in regards to voter registration maintenance, and illustrate these with an experiment on the actual voter rolls from Florida.

The Introduction of Voter Registration and Its Effect on Turnout

Date Published: 
11/30/2008
Author(s): 
David M. Konisky
Stephen Ansolabehere
Studies of voter turnout across states find that those with more facilitative registration laws have higher turnout rates. Eliminating registration barriers altogether is estimated to raise voter participation rates by up to 10%. This article presents panel estimates of the effects of introducing registration that exploits changes in registration laws and turnout within states. New York and Ohio imposed registration requirements on all of their counties in 1965 and 1977, respectively.

How Hard Can It Be: Do Citizens Think It Is Difficult to Register to Vote?

Working Paper No.: 
48
Date Published: 
11/30/2008
Author(s): 
Thad E. Hall
R. Michael Alvarez
Political equality is seen as an intrinsic normative principle for the adequate functioning of a democratic republic. However, it is well documented that in the United States there are many qualified citizens who do not vote, many who do not participate in the political process due to procedural barriers that make it difficult or impossible for them to register and vote.

Voter Registration: Past, Present, and Future

Working Paper No.: 
30
Date Published: 
11/30/2008
Author(s): 
R. Michael Alvarez
The Caltech/MIT Voting Technology Project identified problems with voter registration as a pressing problem in the 2000 presidential election; between 1.5 and 3 million votes were lost due to voter registration problems in that election. Voter registration is a central component of the election management process in the United States, and is an important foundation for how elections are administered.

American Elections: A Critical Moment for Research and Reform

Working Paper No.: 
29
Date Published: 
11/30/2008
Author(s): 
R. Michael Alvarez
The 2004 election provided important lessons regarding the performance of voting technology, about continuing problems with voter registration and provisional balloting, issues with procedures and poll site voting practices, and raised questions about the liberalization of early and absentee voting. There are a series of important issues that should be the focus of the election research and reform agenda in coming years:
  • Developing and implementing statewide voter registration databases
  • Improving poll site practices

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