The Real Cost of Voter Registration

Mar 18, 2010

How much does voter registration really cost?  As election officials continue to offer voters new and innovative ways to participate in elections, evaluating administrative costs has become a challenging but important exercise. A case study allows states to better estimate their registration estimates and identify opportunities for reform.

Voter registration costs are difficult to determine due to variations in state laws and the manner in which election administration responsibilities are divided between state and local election officials. This landmark case study, conducted by the Pew Center on the States with the assistance of Oregon state and local election officials, is the first publicly available, detailed compilation of state voter registration costs.

The study found that voter registration in Oregon cost more than $8.8 million* during the 2008 election, a cost of $4.11* per active registered voter or $7.67* per voter registration transaction (adding new or updating existing voter records).  Using this analysis as a model, other states will be able to better estimate their registration expenses and therefore identify opportunities for reform.

*Numbers updated as of March 18, 2010. (Report originally released December 16, 2009.)

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