Eric Fischer and Kevin Coleman study of voter registration systems

Earlier this spring, Eric Fischer (Congressional Research Service) sent me a link to a paper that he and Kevin Coleman wrote, “Voter Registration Systems.” It’s an insightful analysis of the characteristics of a voter registration system, and of how the states are doing regarding implementation of their statewide voter registries.

The most interesting part of the Fischer-Coleman analysis is their conclusion. They argue in their conclusion that there are three things now missing from any consensus on what might constitute a successful implementation of a statewide voter registration system under HAVA:

  1. A lack of national standards for voter registration systems.
  2. A lack of consensus measures for voter system performance (they provide at least eight measures).
  3. A lack of means for gathering data on performance relative to these metrics.

Is this the place where I say “we told you so?”

Seriously, Fischer and Coleman are right on the money here. We lack national standards, clear and concise performance metrics, and methods for gathering data regarding performance relative to those metrics. While there is increasing pressure being placed on the Election Assistance Commission for voter registration database standards and for them to implement better data collection practices, it is not clear when we might have national voter registration system standards nor when we will see the collection of detailed and consistent data on implementation and performance of statewide voter registration systems.