Elections have undergone an array of changes in the past few years, most of them in the direction of modernization. But as millions return to the polls this fall for the mid-term election, electionline.org's latest Election Reform Briefing "Holding Form: Voter Registration 2006," finds that the process of voter registration remains largely unchanged.
The report, the result of a survey of state election directors conducted at the start of the 2006 primary season, found that even as technology marches forward with new machines and new databases, voter registration is by comparison still largely a paper-and-pen affair requiring stamps and mail boxes. Lead times can exceed a month in some states, and rules regulating what information is on forms -- as well who can distribute and collect them -- vary greatly across state lines.
"The report demonstrates that while the only constant in election reform for the past six years has been change, this area - the first step in the process of becoming a voter - is firmly entrenched in the 20th Century," said Doug Chapin, electionline.org's director. "Advances in virtually every other areas of elections have not yet found their way to the process of voter registration - and especially not the part that most would-be voters experience."
Among the findings:
"The reluctance to embrace technology is not unsurprising, especially considering the unease with which many view the modernization of elections generally," Chapin said. "While there may continue to be technological advances in the area of voter registration in the foreseeable future, I would expect such advances to be met with the same skepticism and scrutiny that has attended modernization efforts in other parts of the voting process."
electionline.org is the nation's leading nonpartisan, non-advocacy organization researching, analyzing and reporting on election administration and reform. It is funded by The Pew Charitable Trusts with a grant administered by the University of Richmond.
Pew is no longer active in this line of work, but for more information, please visit electionline.org.