NEW YORK -- April 29 -- The Election Assistance Commission (EAC) held a public hearing on April 26, 2005, at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology to discuss its proposed voluntary guidelines for implementing a Help America Vote Act (HAVA) mandate that each state have in place "a single, uniform, official, centralized, interactive computerized statewide voter registration list" by January 1, 2006. National voting rights group Demos issued the following statement to highlight key problems with the new guidelines, and make clear recommendations for steps that should be taken to implement an accurate, secure voter registration database |
"Implementing a statewide voter registration system is one of the most important requirements of HAVA," says Miles Rapoport, President of Demos and former Secretary of the State of Connecticut. "If done properly, it will enhance election administration at all levels and vastly improve the accuracy of voter lists so that eligible voters are not turned away from the polls on Election Day."
"The EAC has an important role in providing election administrators with guidelines for fair balloting and legislative compliance, and must do all that it can to assist states in this complex voter database implementation process. We commend them for holding this hearing, but the proposed guidelines, in their current form, are a watered-down version of HAVA's existing database requirements that do not adequately address the many challenges states face in implementing a quality voter registration list" Rapoport says of the 8-page draft "guidance" document released by the EAC on April 12. "The guidelines also do not provide any recommendations to help protect voters during the registration or purging processes, which are widely known to be riddled with errors."
Rapoport urges the EAC to propose strong guidelines encouraging states to build databases that are:
- Transparent and able to track additions, deletions or other changes to a voter's registration.
- Updated in real-time so that the most accurate voter registration information is in the statewide voter registration system.
- User-friendly and capable of allowing voters to check their registration status online through a public portal that also provides voters with other pertinent information, such as a map of their polling location.
- Inclusive and designed to expand opportunities for individuals to register and vote by connecting social service agencies and disability services offices to election agencies. Eventually other institutions like the US Postal Service could be linked to the statewide database, so that voter registration information is automatically updated when people change their addresses.
- Accessible to election officials at each polling place on Election Day. A real-time, on-line component would not only safeguard the integrity of election results, it would facilitate the adoption of other inclusive voting reforms like Election Day Registration, which is proven to increase voter turnout significantly.
- Sufficiently secure to protect key aspects of voter information and to ensure that only authorized election officials have access to sensitive data, such as social security numbers, driver's license numbers and other highly confidential information.
- "This is a chance to offer election officials real solutions that will protect one of the signal promises of this nation: for every eligible voter to be able to register and cast a vote that will count," says Rapoport. "It's time to give Americans the Democracy we deserve."
For more information about election reform, visit Demos online at www.demos.org.
Members of the press: to schedule an interview with Miles Rapoport, President, or Steve Carbo, Director of the Democracy Program at Demos, please contact Timothy Rusch at 212/389-1407 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Demos: A Network for Ideas & Action is a nonprofit, nonpartisan public policy organization based in New York.