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Elections: Additional Data Could Help State and Local Elections Officials Maintain Accurate Voter Registration Lists

GAO-05-478 Published: Jun 10, 2005. Publicly Released: Jun 23, 2005.
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Reports of ineligible persons registering to vote raised concerns about state processes for verifying voter registration lists. States base voter eligibility generally on the voter's age, U.S. citizenship, mental competence, and felon status. Although states run elections, Congress has authority to affect the administration of elections. The Help America Vote Act of 2002 (HAVA) sets a deadline for states to have a statewide voter registration list and list verification procedures. For this report, GAO selected seven states (AZ, CA, MI, NY, TX, VA, and WI) to represent a range of characteristics relevant to voter registrations, such as whether a statewide voter list existed prior to HAVA. This report discusses how these states verify voter registration eligibility; the challenges they face in maintaining accurate voter lists; the progress toward implementing HAVA registration requirements; and identifies federal data sources that might be used to help verify voter registration eligibility.


Recommendations for Executive Action

Agency Affected Recommendation Status
Department of Justice To assist state election officials in identifying individuals on voter registration lists who may be ineligible to vote because of their felon or non-citizen status, the Attorney General should direct the U.S. Attorneys to provide information on felony convictions in U.S. district courts in a more standardized format to make it easier for election officials to interpret the conviction information, such as the length of the sentence, and to help ensure information on felons is complete and timely.
Closed – Implemented
According to information provided by a Department of Justice official, in April 2008 the Executive Office for United States Attorneys set forth a requirement for all U.S. Attorneys Offices to use a newly-created customized report to notify state election offices at the end of each calendar quarter about the defendants convicted in the districts. The new electronic system allows each office to electronically pull defendant conviction information out of the existing case management system into a quarterly report. The offices are required to send this report to state election offices within 30 calendar days of the end of each quarter.
Administrative Office of the United States Courts To assist state election officials in identifying individuals on voter registration lists who may be ineligible to vote because of their felon or non-citizen status, the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts should determine the feasibility and steps necessary to implement a requirement that U.S. district court jury administrators provide notice to state election officials of potential jurors who identify themselves as non-citizens on their jury qualification questionnaire.
Closed – Implemented
According to information provided by an official of the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts (AOUSC), on Aug. 11, 2005, a memo to District courts advised them that the AOUSC would work with the Jury Management System (JMS) vendor to develop a routine that would generate a report over a specified date range listing potential jurors who indicated on the juror questionnaire that they are not citizens. In Sept. 2005, AOUSC provided sample language for district court jury plans for notifying state officials of such potential jurors. In Nov. 2006, version 6.0 of the JMS was released to the courts that could produce a "non-citizen" report. In March 2008, version 6.0.1 of the JMS was released. It included a new data field that enabled the courts to produce a report that showed those prospective jurors whose names came from the voter rolls and who indicated that they were non-citizens.

Full Report

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CitizenshipCriminalsElectionsEligibility criteriaEligibility determinationsFederal lawFederal records managementFraudJurisdictional authorityRecordsState lawVoting records