By Glynis Kazanjian
A new, national voter registration data exchange Maryland joined earlier this year to help clean up its voter rolls will not deliver necessary data to the State Board of Elections in time to scrub the lists before the Nov. 6 elections.
The group – Electronic Registration Information Center (ERIC), did however provide timely data to the state board of elections that would help increase the number of registered voters, according to David Becker of The Pew Center on the States, the group that created the program.
Maryland joined ERIC in May for an initial fee of $25,000. State Elections Administrator Linda Lamone serves as one of its three officers.
Designed to increase accuracy
ERIC is designed to increase accuracy in voter rolls. It allows member states to electronically share voter registration files, motor vehicle data and other data sources which would identify convicted felons, duplicate voter registrations, the deceased and voters who have moved. It also strives to streamline, modernize through technology, and make more cost efficient the voter registration process.
“We were always shooting to have that information prior to the election, although all the states also knew they were within the 90-day window for this [list] maintenance operation,” Becker said.
The National Voter Registration Act of 1993 prohibits almost all list maintenance from occurring within 90 days of a federal election.
“Data needed to clean up voter rolls won’t likely be available until after the elections,” Becker said. “Once that blackout is lifted, and ERIC is able to provide the information, they [state members] will be able to engage in very high quality maintenance operations to clean up their lists.”
Registrations in other states can’t yet be checked
Voters like former 1st Congressional District candidate Wendy Rosen, who voted in both Maryland and Florida, could have been flagged if Florida, where Rosen was also registered, was signed up for ERIC. But Florida has yet to sign on, and there is no way Maryland could have identified Rosen with its current system.
Asked “how does the state elections board know that registered Maryland voters are not voting in other states?,” state election management director Donna Duncan replied, “We don’t.”
Maryland received timely data weeks before the Aug. 8 federal shutout to boost voter registration numbers.
“Maryland has uploaded its motor vehicles and voter registration data into the data center,” Becker said. “They have received reports on eligible, but unregistered voters, and are initiating contact with some voters to hopefully inform them on how to register in the most efficient and most effective way, which in Maryland would be their online voter registration system. It also happens to be the most accurate and secure way to register in Maryland.”
Becker also said Maryland, along with all other member states, received the reports at the most efficient time, “weeks before the registration deadline, rather than right at the deadline.”
Duncan said a date had not been set yet for the ERIC file merge, which would compare registration with other states.
Maryland passed legislation in 2011 to permit participation in data sharing with other member states.
Seven states now share data; 13 more to join next year
The Pew Center on the States financially supported and facilitated discussions that launched the program. ERIC’s current members, along with Maryland, include Colorado, Delaware, Nevada, Utah, Virginia, and Washington.
State members will manage, maintain and fund ERIC, while the Pew Center on the States will provide administrative assistance as needed. Membership is expected to cost between $50,000 and $100,000 annually.
About a dozen additional states are expected to join ERIC in 2013, including Arizona, Idaho, Illinois, Kansas, Missouri, Ohio, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina and Washington, D.C., according to the state board of elections.
Stories related to this article: http://marylandreporter.com/2011/01/28/national-voter-registration-database-would-clean-up-voter-rolls/
The Washington Post had an op-ed about how other countries handle voter validation, as an alternative to pre-registration to vote.