A report commissioned by The Pew Charitable Trusts to evaluate the performance of the Electronic Registration Information Center, or ERIC, has found that states using the system improved their election performance in 2012 on several key measures compared with non-ERIC states. The study was conducted by the Research Triangle Institute in conjunction with Barry Burden, a professor of political science at the University of Wisconsin—Madison.
The report evaluates the first phase of ERIC’s functionality, which used state motor vehicle records to identify and contact millions of eligible but unregistered citizens in the participating states, encourage them to register to vote, and provide clear instructions on the most efficient way to register. The second phase, which focuses on voter list maintenance, particularly updating outdated and no-longer-valid records, will be evaluated in 2014.
ERIC states improved on several measures of election performance compared with non-ERIC states:
- Registration rates for new voters increased by 1.14 percentage points, compared with just 0.27 points in non-ERIC states.
- The rate of voters citing registration problems as their reason for not voting decreased 3.39 percentage points, compared with a 0.57-point decline in non-ERIC states.
- The number of provisional ballots issued grew by just 0.10 points, compared with 0.36 points in non-ERIC states.
- The share of provisional ballots rejected or uncounted, which rose nationwide, increased just 0.91 points, compared with 4.05 points in non-ERIC states.
- Voter turnout, which decreased across the country, declined only slightly—by 1.17 points—compared with 3.53 points in non-ERIC states.
ERIC surpasses current data matching practices
- According to the report, “every state official we interviewed was confident that the ERIC matching process was superior to any efforts their states had undertaken or might do in the near future.”
Cost to participate in ERIC is not prohibitive
- The researchers state that, “while costs were a salient concern in some states, they were not a pressing issue in most states. The financial costs of belonging to ERIC are distributed across the states based in part on the sizes of state electorates. The seven participating states agreed to the cost structure when ERIC was created.”
No significant burden on staff time for ERIC participation
- The report found that, “aside from some extended interactions with state motor vehicles agencies, none of the interviewees reported that ERIC was a significant or problematic draw on their staff time or other nonfinancial resources.”
ERIC offers indirect benefits
- The study also noted that “participation in ERIC enabled states to identify quirks in their system that might otherwise have gone undetected.” For example:
- Utah discovered a problem with invalid Social Security numbers in a significant number of records.
- Colorado found “a couple hundred thousand” records in its state motor vehicles files that were missing the photo and signature components, which might have prevented otherwise eligible individuals from accessing the state’s online voter registration system.
- Multiple states reported improved, or at least more frequent, communication between the state election and motor vehicle agencies.
ERIC’s benefits will improve over time as more states join
The researchers concluded that, “in some ways, the effects of ERIC will not be fully realized for several years. Registering new voters and cleaning voter rolls are iterative processes that involve repeated data matching, learning, and actions by state officials. In addition, ERIC’s ability to add ‘context’ improves as more data are incorporated.”
- Research Triangle Institute’s press release: New Initiative to Modernize Voter Registration Working Well
For more information, visit the Electronic Registration Information Center.