[Image courtesy of Pew Center on The States]
My friends and colleagues at Pew's elections team just released a report that paints a picture of how our nation's voting system is stretched to the point of breaking by waves of voter registrations that arrive as predictably as swallows to Capistrano or buzzards to Hinckley, Ohio.
The infographic above looks at registration activity in Florida but this pattern is repeated in Colorado, Maryland and Virginia, which were also part of Pew's study. The report itself neatly summarizes the challenge for election officials:
These data show the unique business cycle of an elections office, where every four years there is an explosion of voter registration activity. Officials plan for staffing and resources that are sufficient for 47 months out of the 48 month cycle and then face tremendous challenges during that one month before a presidential election registration deadline. Finding the time and labor to process these forms while also conducting the many other activities necessary to prepare for an election is a daunting task--and one that election officials will no doubt face again this fall.
The responses to the challenges are varied - many states are moving toward online voter registration, while several others have partnered with Pew to pilot a new information exchange that will help participating states identify voters who have moved, died or are otherwise no longer eligible while at the same time identifying voters who are eligible but unregistered.
Whatever the response, though, Pew's new data - and its vivid pictures - are a reminder that the increased workload in the field of voter registration certainly does *not* qualify as an October surprise.