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Pew Report Highlights Need to Modernize Voter Registration

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: February 14, 2012

Antiquated Registration System Results in One in Four Eligible Americans Absent from Voter Rolls, One in Eight Voter Roll Entries Inaccurate

WASHINGTON, D.C- Today, the Pew Center on the States issued a report that makes it painfully clear that our antiquated system of voter registration sorely needs to be modernized.  Our nation's current, paper-based system of voter registration is costly, inefficient and, according to the Pew report, has resulted in one in four eligible Americans absent  from our voter rolls. 

We are hopeful that the results of this report will lead to a technological solution to modernize our voter registration system.  Our current system provides safeguards to ensure that Americans, who have taken every step required of them, are able to continue to participate in our democracy.  Those safeguards, particularly the provisions of the National Voter Registration Act, can sometimes lead to invalid registrations remaining on the rolls when jurisdictions do not properly follow required list maintenance procedures.  After the hyperbolic calls of voter fraud subside, the facts always show that, while sometimes cumbersome and costly for election officials, our current registration system  does not lead to improper votes being cast.  A perfect example of hype of voter fraud that proved to be without merit were the recent claims that in South Carolina votes were cast on behalf of 900 dead people.  This claim by the attorney general was quickly refuted by the state's election's director. 

The only true solution to the problems highlighted in the Pew report is to create an automatic and permanent voter registration system.  Through a collection of existing databases, states should automatically register voters when they turn 18 or become naturalized citizens.  That registration should be permanent, and move with the voter.  To ensure that no voters fall through the cracks, there should be a system of Election Day correction so Americans can fix errors and still cast a real ballot. 

"Our current system makes citizens take the first step to register to vote, but typically cuts off registration just when public interest in an election is peaking," said Bob Kengle, co-director of the Lawyers' Committee's Voting Rights Project.  "We have a mobile society, and among the countless address changes that citizens must make when they move, updating voter registration is often left until it is too late.  Last-minute waves of voter registration applications repeatedly overwhelm election officials and lead to administrative delays and errors in processing the forms.  The technology exists for an accurate and secure registration system that encourages all Americans to participate in our democracy.  All we need is a commitment from our leaders to make it happen."

Read Pew's issue brief, "Inaccurate, Costly and Inefficient: Evidence that America's Voter Registration System Needs an Upgrade."

About the Lawyers' Committee

The Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law (LCCRUL), a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization, was formed in 1963 at the request of President John F. Kennedy to involve the private bar in providing legal services to address racial discrimination. The principal mission of the Lawyers' Committee is to secure, through the rule of law, equal justice under law, particularly in the areas of fair housing and fair lending, community development, employment discrimination, voting, education and environmental justice.  For more information about the LCCRUL, visit www.lawyerscommittee.org.

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