Protecting the Voter.

Author:Senecal, Jeanette
Position:Cover story

Congress passed the Help America Vote Act of 2002 (HAVA) to help ensure that all eligible voters are able to cast their votes and have them counted. This law established important new federal requirements and authorized funds to help states meet the new requirements. Unfortunately, some states are using this opportunity to make changes in election procedures that can result, deliberately or inadvertently, in voter disenfranchisement.


The League's "Public Advocacy for Voter Protection" project supports state-based advocacy by state Leagues to prevent the development of procedures that threaten citizen's access to the vote. Underserved populations such as minorities, people with limited resources and the elderly are of particular concern. Leagues are working to ensure that all eligible voters' registration records are successfully included in the statewide voter registration database and to oppose the alleged need for photo identification at the polls.

Voter Registration Databases

States are grappling with the implementation of HAVA's requirement for a "single, uniform, centralized, interactive computerized statewide voter registration list [database]." This requirement grew out of the 2000 elections, when hundreds of thousands of eligible voters were disenfranchised because of faulty voter registration systems.

Because HAVA is silent on how the statewide lists are specifically managed, protocols across the states vary widely. There is reason for concern that procedures for managing the database, processing newly-registered voters, removing "duplicate" names and performing other administrative duties will not be carried out in a uniform and nondiscriminatory manner. As the nation prepares for the 2006 general elections, the patchwork implementation of HAVA requirements in individual state databases is cause for alarm.

To date, database implementation in states has suffered from a spectrum of problems:

* Rejection of voter applications because of a non-match.

* Use of matching protocols that do not account for typos, transposed letters and numbers, name changes and omitted information that are inherent in large databases.

* Failure to notify voters regarding the status of their registration application and to seek additional information from voters with incomplete voter registration applications.

* Failure to use purged voter lists or inactive voter lists when applying match protocols.

* Limited options for voters to...

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