The elections of 2008 served as a critical test of the nation's
election systems. With changes in voting machines and procedures,
coupled with expectations of record voter turnout, election
administrators held their breath and hoped their system wouldn't fail.
While the system didn't fail, voters faced serious obstacles in
exercising their right to vote. Voter registration ended up being the problem that affected the largest number of voters. Even before the first votes were cast, it was apparent
that our voter registration systems were woefully inadequate. While in
other nations 90% or more of the eligible voter population is
registered to vote, in the United States less than 75% of eligible
voters are registered.
While national NVRA
compliance has dropped off sharply, some states have reinvigorated their efforts
and as a result have seen major upswings in the number of voters that are being
registered, especially at public assistance agencies. Working in
collaboration with Demos and Project Vote, the North Carolina Board of
Elections has implemented a compliance
plan that has increased monthly registrations from 484 in the years 2004
through 2006, to 2,529 in 2007. Iowa, Oregon, and Tennessee have also
made concerted efforts to improve compliance.
assistance agencies have seen the most significant compliance problems, and
they also provide the best opportunities to register voters whose voices are
underrepresented in the electorate. Project Vote has composed a basic
five part strategy that will help election officials achieve compliance at
Know the NVRA's public agency
registration requirements (NVRA Section 7).
Communicate frequently with
agency managers and staff.
Provide training and support
to agency personnel.
Monitor registrations from
public assistance agencies.
Review agency registration
performance and act on your findings.
Vote has also drafted model legislation in collaboration with Demos
that outlines more specifically the steps needed to get a state in compliance
with the federal law. With a very small outlay of resources and a bit of
interest and leadership, compliance with the federal law is easily
obtainable. Therefore, ensuring compliance should be a priority for all
legislators interested in increasing electoral participation in their state.