Pew Report: Measuring Motor Voter

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On May 6, 2014, Pew released “Measuring Motor Voter: Room for Improvement,” a brief examining voter registration opportunities at state motor vehicle agencies.

The research, conducted by Christopher B. Mann, Ph.D., on behalf of Pew, revealed that state data collection is too flawed to accurately assess the process in most states. Among the report’s findings:

  • Motor vehicle transactions that should trigger voter registration are: issuing new licenses and state IDs, renewing current licenses or state IDs, and updating information on licenses or IDs. Many state motor vehicles agencies do not collect and report data about the number of these transactions that take place, however, making it impossible to calculate how many result in voter registrations. 
  • Nationally, there are no standard categories for reporting voter registration applications. Some states report new registrants, updates to current registrations, invalid or rejected applications, and duplicate registrations. Others report only a few of these categories or do not classify registrant data, leaving researchers with no way to verify the number of applications filed in the state.
  • Most state motor vehicle agencies and election agencies do not have compatible electronic data systems. These offices often collect different data in different formats; as a result, voter data must be re-entered manually, an inefficient process that is frequently inaccurate.

The Pew report recommends that states automate and centralize data collection on voter registrations conducted at motor vehicle agencies, assign responsibility for implementation of these functions to one state official, increase coordination between licensing agencies and election administrators, and promote education and training for motor vehicle personnel.  

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