For decades, election officials have faced the challenge of processing a wave of voter registration forms immediately prior to a presidential election. Data from four states—Colorado, Florida, Maryland, and Virginia—clearly show that these election offices must deal with a huge spike in voter registration applications every four years.
Voters generally register in one of two ways. One is at a state agency like a motor vehicles office or a public assistance agency where, per the National Voter Registration Act of 1993 (NVRA), people are offered the opportunity to register to vote. The data demonstrate while these registration numbers fluctuate a little, they do not significantly increase or decrease at any particular time, including before a presidential election.
People also choose to register to vote directly with their local election office, either by mail, in person, or through a third-party registration group. These registrations are greatly driven by the election calendar and an overwhelming number of them are paper forms. As voter registration deadlines and Election Day approach, interest in the election intensifies as does that activity of third-party registration groups.
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.
To view the full infographics for each state, click here.