News Update: Utah Gov’s Bipartisan Commission Unanimously Recommends Voter Registration Modernization to and registration.


How will a voter’s information be updated and where will the correct information come from?

Just like the process for registering for the Selective Service, election officials will be able to synchronize voter registration lists with existing lists from state agencies to ensure that voter name and address information is current. States can opt to use lists like Department of Motor Vehicle lists, state social service agency lists, lists of college students and lists of military personnel that vote in their districts. When someone moves or takes on a married name or otherwise triggers an update of any one of these lists, his or her voter registration information will be updated as well.

How, exactly, will these updates to voter registration lists occur?

Name and address information on voter rolls will get updated automatically from other government lists on an ongoing basis. Voters could also check, correct and update their information through secure, automated websites and toll-free phone numbers. For the few voters that still have incorrect information on the rolls on Election Day, states or local election officials can provide a process to correct that information at the polls.

How will young people, who may not use many government services, get on the registration lists when they become eligible?

There are many ways to accurately capture young people on the voter rolls:

  • States could call for automatic voter registration of high school or vocational school students who will be 18 by the next federal election, from lists provided by departments of education and, where applicable, schools or school districts directly.
  • States could require voter registration information be provided by colleges and universities that receive federal funds.

How do we ensure that only citizens get on the rolls?

Automatic and permanent voter registration offers even more protections against non-citizens being added to the rolls than our current, paper based registration system. Most of the voters who will be automatically added to the voter registration list come from other databases that contain information about citizenship status based on documentation provided by the voter. Many Motor Vehicles agencies collect citizenship information and all agencies that administer federal social service programs collect citizenship information. Those voters whose citizenship status cannot be confirmed automatically can be allowed to affirm their citizenship and eligibility before they cast a ballot.

What about people with past criminal convictions?

Modernization will ensure that people with felony convictions stay off registration rolls while they are ineligible, only allowing them back on once their eligibility has been restored based on individual state laws. States will be able to synchronize registration lists with felony conviction data maintained by various state authorities.

How will duplicate registrations and other list maintenance issues be handled?

Voter registration databases differ from state to state so the process for removing duplicates will differ from state to state; however, in an automatic registration system, states will have broad latitude to ensure that each eligible voter is only represented by one entry in the registration list. Voters should also be protected by making the list maintenance protocols transparent and by providing ample opportunities for eligible voters to correct inevitable mistakes in the process.

Will automatic registration make non-citizens more vulnerable to discrimination?

Absolutely not. An automatic registration system will prohibit the use of voter registration records for immigration enforcement or discriminatory practices. Moreover, the source lists will be kept confidential. Voters who are not citizens and mistakenly added to the list should be shielded from prosecution because they did not intend to register. Of course, ineligible voters who intend to defraud the system by voting will be subject to vigorous prosecution.

Will eligible voters have the option of opting out of the registration system?

Yes. Anyone who chooses to do so may easily opt out of the system at no cost. They will also have the opportunity to opt back in later. Further, there will be a protection available for individuals who wish to be registered, but who have cause to keep their registration information confidential.

Will independent groups still need to direct resources to voter registration efforts if voters are automatically registered?

No. Because voter registration will be automatic and permanent, our voter registration system will improve dramatically. A modern system will eliminate the need for paper voter registration forms. One of the biggest changes will be the elimination of the need for independent organizations to conduct voter registration dives.

What about states that include information about political party in their registration database?

States that capture party affiliation information as part of the registration process can continue to do so by allowing newly added voters to register their party affiliation at the polls when they first attempt to vote, over the Internet or telephone, or by sending newly registered voters a postcard through which they can register their party affiliation and any other information election officials seek to capture. States could also notify new registrants of all the opportunities to register party affiliation.

Will voter privacy be secure with automatic voter registration lists?

Yes. An automatic registration system will include a number of protections for individual privacy, including:

  • a strict prohibition on disclosure of the source list for any voter’s registration information, to ensure that the agency that supplies any particular voter’s information is not disclosed to the public;
  • a strict prohibition against using voters’ registration information for commercial purposes;
  • a strict prohibition against using voters’ registration information to determine the citizenship status of any individual;
  • a requirement that states maintain or strengthen existing policies forbidding disclosure of certain private or protected information, such as voters’ Social Security or driver’s license numbers, signatures, dates and places of birth, or phone numbers and email addresses;
  • a strict prohibition that requires states not to disclose the source list of an entry on the voter registration list; and
  • a requirement that states provide a procedure to protect the registration information of persons in categories designated confidential by the state, such as victims of domestic violence and stalking, prosecutors and law enforcement personnel, and any participant in a witness protection program.