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Professor Dan Tokaji
Election reform, the Voting Rights Act, the Help America Vote Act, and related topics -- with special attention to the voting rights of people of color, non-English proficient citizens, and people with disabilities

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Equal Vote
Thursday, August 4
 
The League and Statewide Registration Lists
The League of Women Voters today released this report entitled "Next Steps on Election Reform." The report is a product of a forum that the League hosted in March of this year. It recaps problems that emerged in the 2004 election describes what ought to be done to improve things in the future. The four "key steps" summarized in this press release are:
-Professionalization,
-A new focus on service,
-Research and development, and
-New federal resources and commitment
In addition to addressing such familiar problems as provisional voting, registration, and technology, the League's report addresses the "next big issue" of statewide registration databases, which HAVA mandates be in place by the 2006 elections. It notes that there's little agreement on how an effective registration database should function, something that's quite worrying given the short time left for implementation.

The report quotes EAC Vice-Chair Paul DeGregorio as saying that he'd keep those concerns in mind when developing the Commission's guidance on this HAVA requirement. On that subject, the final version of the EAC guidelines, which I mentioned in this post, is now available here. These guidelines interpret HAVA as requiring that the state officials must be able to control access to data, and that local officials be able to have access to it. It recommends that the state list be synched with local databases at least once every 24 hours.

Under HAVA, the statewide lists must be coordinated with driver's license and social security databases. One of the big concerns is that voters will wrongly be excluded from registration lists due to transcription problems or other minor errors. The guidelines recommend that states avoid "inflexible" matching rules that would have the tendency to exclude eligible voters. Where the information doesn't match, the EAC recommends that voters be given notice and the opportunity to explain or correct the apparent discrepancy.

My take: Statewide registration databases are indeed the next big issue to watch out for in 2006. I'm very concerned that a significant numbers of voters will show up at the polls and find that their names aren't on the lists, due to problems in matching their data against motor vehicle or social security records. The effect could be to put additional strain on the provisional voting system, since voters whose names don't appear on the lists must be given provisional ballots -- which must in turn be counted if their eligibility can later be verified. And more provisional ballots mean a greater likelihood of post-election disputes over the outcome.

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