GAO Report on Voter Registration

Today, the GAO issued a 120 page report, Views of Selected Local Election Officials on Managing Voter Registration and Ensuring Eligible Citizens Can Vote (abstract or full-report). This report is a follow up to a June 2005 report on voter registration. The report abstract discusses the difficulties in addressing the volume of voter registration applications that are submitted before the election. The abstract states:

Local election officials representing all but 1 of the 14 jurisdictions GAO surveyed after the November 2004 election reported facing some challenges processing voter registration applications and took steps to address them. Processing applications received from voter registration drives sponsored by non-governmental organizations posed a challenge to election officials in 12 of the 14 jurisdictions, while half of the officials reported challenges receiving applications from other external sources, such as motor vehicle agencies. Challenges occurred in processing these applications for reasons such as incomplete or inaccurate information on voter registration applications. Half of the officials reported that their offices faced challenges checking applications for completeness, accuracy, or duplicates, citing, among other things, insufficient staffing to check the applications. Steps taken by election officials to address these and other challenges included hiring additional staff to handle the volume of applications received and contacting applicants to get correct information.

All but 1 of the 14 election officials reported that, using various sources of information, they removed names from voter registration lists during 2004 if, for example, voters had moved, were deceased, or were ineligible due to a felony conviction. To help ensure names of eligible voters were not inadvertently removed from voter registration lists, officials reported contacting voters to confirm removal, matched voters’ identifying information (such as name and address) with address changes provided by the U.S. Postal Service, and matched voter registration records with felony or death records. GAO reported in June 2005 about problems officials in these same jurisdictions experienced verifying voter information with death or felony information from existing data sources.

GAO’s survey showed that all 14 election jurisdictions permitted citizens to cast provisional ballots during the November 2004 election. HAVA gives states discretion to implement provisional voting based on state voter eligibility requirements. According to the election officials surveyed, about 423,000 provisional ballots were cast in 13 of the 14 jurisdictions, and 70 percent of those votes were counted. Also, 8 of the 14 jurisdictions reported challenges implementing provisional voting, in part, because some poll workers were not familiar with provisional voting or staff did not have sufficient time to process provisional ballots. To address these challenges, election officials in these jurisdictions said they hired extra staff or provided training to poll workers.