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Keeping Up With the Parties (and Voters): The Need for Voter Registration Modernization

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[Image courtesy of The Social Leader]

The Republican National Committee recently announced that it would follow the lead of Democrats and outsource management of its voter lists. According to ClickZ, the move will allow the RNC to continually update its voter list to reflect information obtained by campaigns and other organizations about voters who - as we have already seen - are constantly on the move.

While political parties' updates of their lists include specific information that is of interest only to them - for example, magazine and other media subscriptions that are the raw material for the growing practice of microtargeting - the effort to constantly refresh the list as voters move would appear to be a no-brainer for election officials across the nation.

The Help America Vote Act required states to match their voter databases against Social Security and other records - with mixed success as election offices (and sometimes courts) struggled with what to do about "no matches" on the list.

Fortunately, there is a move in the works to allow states and localities to get access to the same kind of technology that the parties use to update their voter lists. My former colleagues at the Pew Center on the States have developed a new approach in cooperation with election officials and technology experts that they call "upgrading voter registration". This design would combine common data like change of address data with state voter files in a data exchange that would allow the election lists to keep up with voters as their address or other information changes.

Very often, political junkies and election geeks are at cross purposes - especially in high-profile election years like 2012 - but the evolving practice of using new data to refresh old files is an idea that both can use to their benefit. Hopefully we'll see more of this kind of innovation in the months to come.

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