Upgrading Democracy

Improving America's Elections by Modernizing States' Voter Registration Systems

Quick Summary

This 2010 report argued that Americans deserve a more cost-effective, accurate and efficient registration system that protects the integrity of the process and ensures that more eligible voters—and only eligible voters—are on the rolls In response, Pew worked with election officials, researchers and technology experts to engage in a far-reaching exploration of how states might modernize voter registration We identified significant process improvements and new technology that could help states develop more accurate voter rolls and improve their election systems management before, during and after Election Day.

Our current voter registration systems have not kept pace with technological advances or with America's rapidly changing—and increasingly mobile—society. Upgrading Democracy, a report from Pew, examines how technology can be used to improve voter registration.

A decade into the 21st century, a largely unchanged 19th century registration system constrains election offices and frustrates voters. Inefficiencies plague the entire process, reducing the accuracy and integrity of state voter rolls and raising the costs of maintenance.

Improving the Technology

Working with election officials and other experts, Pew has identified  how election offices can upgrade their voter registration systems by improving the technology they use to capture data about voters and to keep it current.

The approach comprises three core elements:

  1. Compare voter registration lists with a wider array of data sources to broaden the base of information used to update and verify voter rolls.
  2. Use proven matching techniques and data security protocols to attain the level of integrity and confidence needed to ensure accuracy and privacy.
  3. Establish new means for voters to submit information online and minimize manual data entry, resulting in lower costs and fewer errors.

By combining these elements, states could phase out many laborious and error-prone procedures and considerably heighten the level of accuracy, integrity and utility of the registration process.

Media Contact

Stephanie Bosh

Officer, Communications