The New Mexico Secretary of State Dianna Duran has provided 64,000 registered voter names to the New Mexico State Police for fraud examination. This represents about 5.3% of all registered voters and about 7.7% of voters in the 2010 election. No details were given on how these voters were identified, but that represents an enormous number of records to work through. No process was identified for how the New Mexico State Police would examine the records or how long it would take to review them. More information about this story can be found here.
The article mentions the possibility of administrative errors. This is very likely. My own experience with working with voter registration files is that they are somewhat dirty. By that I mean the file consists of missing data, incorrect data, duplicate entries, etc (also see an excellent report on the quality of voter registration files by Stephen Ansolabehere and Eitan Hersh).
What is the problem? A major part of the problem is that the data collection and entry process leads to data entry errors. Individuals register to vote in their own handwriting and then administrative staff interpret and enter the information into the electronic system. Obviously this is a process rife with numerous points for potential error.
One possible solution to this is to move to some sort of electronic registration, perhaps self-registration on-line and/or augmenting information in voter registration files with information from other state and federal databases to obtain more correct information. See for example the op ed piece by Mike and Dean Logan.
As the investigation progresses, it is worthwhile for us to understand the process. One thing we can learn from the process is where the problems exist and how to fix them. This is an opportunity for us to collect important data on administrative problems with the voter registration process.