I. In Focus This Week
ERIC states preparing voter rolls ahead of Election Day
With possible record turnout pre-election work should smooth process
By Alexis Schuler and Samuel Derheimer
The Pew Charitable Trusts
The Electronic Registration Information Center (ERIC), a sophisticated data matching center for state election officials, began with seven states in 2012. Today, ERIC has grown to 20 states plus the District of Columbia, covering over 75 million eligible American voters.
With the election less than two weeks away, and with ERIC member states encompassing about a third of the nation’s eligible voting population, we’ll soon be able to assess the growing impact of the states’ efforts to improve voter registration.
States participating in ERIC are updating their rolls of outdated records and providing information to eligible voters about how to register or update their registration earlier in the election cycle. Since the last presidential election, ERIC states have identified a number of voter records that are likely to require an update or cancellation, including more than 4.5 million voters who have moved but haven’t updated their records; more than 75,000 duplicate records; and more than 160,000 deceased individuals still on the rolls.
Additionally, by cross-referencing state voter rolls against other official government data sources, such as motor vehicle records, ERIC members have identified over 25 million individuals who have proved their identity but haven’t yet registered to vote. Through ERIC, the states are able to contact these eligible but unregistered citizens and educate them on the most efficient and secure method to register. With the recent addition to ERIC of populous states such as Illinois, Pennsylvania, and Ohio, more than 10 million eligible citizens were contacted in 2016 alone.
“For us, ERIC is the outreach piece that we didn’t have before,” said Angie Rogers, Louisiana’s commissioner of elections.
Prior to ERIC, election officials were largely limited to reacting to registration activity driven by campaigns and advocacy groups. Now, with more data and the tools to detect and contact new voters and those whose records may be outdated, election officials in ERIC states can be proactive in their approach to voter roll maintenance.
“ERIC has allowed us to contact voters who are now living in another state and get their permission to remove them from the Delaware rolls,” noted Elaine Manlove, Delaware’s election commissioner. “It has also made a dramatic difference in the quality of our in-state addresses.”
Independent researchers found that ERIC states outperformed non-ERIC states on several key metrics of election administration, including voter registration rates; turnout rates; and the number of provisional ballots issued and rejected.
Gary Poser, Minnesota’s director of elections, cited ERIC’s potential to reduce the number of Election Day registrations in his state as a primary benefit. By reaching out to eligible citizens earlier in the year, Minnesota has been able to target voters—whether new or in need of an update to their existing records—and start their registration process sooner, which should result in fewer delays and shorter lines at the polls on Election Day.
The Pew Charitable Trusts partnered with state and local election officials, academics, and technology experts to help design and build ERIC and facilitate its launch. Since its initial incorporation in 2012, the center has been owned, managed, and funded by its state members.
Over the past two years, Pew has offered grants to all new ERIC member states to help defray the cost of initial outreach to their eligible but unregistered populations. Pew has been thrilled to see the center’s rapid expansion—in both members and services provided—and looks forward to evaluating ERIC’s impact on state preparedness for the 2016 presidential election.
Alexis Schuler is senior director and Samuel Derheimer is senior manager of election initiatives for The Pew Charitable Trusts.
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