The following editorial appeared Sunday in the Los Angeles Times:
A new study by the Pew Center on the States concludes that 24 million voter registrations in the United States about one in eight are no longer valid or are significantly inaccurate. More than 1.8 million dead people are listed as active voters, and 2.75 million voters have active registrations in more than one state.
At first blush, these findings might seem to shore up those mostly in the Republican Party who argue that voting fraud is endemic and must be combated by stronger enforcement measures, such as a requirement that voters carry photo IDs. But the authors of the study don't draw that conclusion.
The Pew study traced inaccuracies to several factors, notably election officials' reliance on paper documentation and the fact that the American population is much more mobile than it was in the 19th century, when many voting registration procedures were established.
Redundancies and other errors in registration information are obviously not desirable, but they don't automatically translate into the sort of polling place fraud alleged by advocates of onerous voter identification laws. (Nor would a photo-ID requirement prevent a voter registered in three places from voting three times.) But lingering perceptions of fraud could be dispelled, and money could be saved, if the states modernized their registration systems.
Pew proposes three initiatives that states could undertake individually or in concert. First, registration lists should be continually compared to other data sources, including post office information about changes of address and, more controversially, private databases. Discrepancies should lead to double-checking. Data-matching techniques and security protocols should be used to ensure the accuracy and security of electronic registration files. And new ways should be found for voters to update their information online (or by telephone).
Technology is not a panacea, but the current antiquated registration system is both error-ridden and inconvenient to Americans seeking to exercise the franchise.