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Opportunity Exists for States to Enhance Voter Roll Accuracy

Jan. 31, 2017

Story Contact(s):
Sheena Rice, ricesm@missouri.edu, 573-882-8353

The views and opinions expressed in this “for expert comment” release are based on research and/or opinions of the researcher(s) and/or faculty member(s) and do not reflect the University’s official stance.

COLUMBIA, Mo. – A 2012 Pew Charitable Trusts report estimated that 2.75 million Americans were on voter rolls in more than one state and 1.8 million dead people remained on these rolls. Recently, the number of such voter file inaccuracies has cast doubt on the integrity of voter registration in the U.S. Election expert Mary Stegmaier, assistant professor in the Truman School of Public Affairs at the University of Missouri, says that an investigation at the national level is not necessary because states maintain their own voter files. According to Stegmaier, states, including Missouri, have an opportunity to partner with an independent organization that helps maintain voter roll integrity.

“In many other democracies, elections are administered at the national level,” Stegmaier said. “However, in the U.S., the states run elections. That means that instead of having a national voter registry, there are 50 state voter lists. It’s up to the states to keep files current and up-to-date.”

Stegmaier says that one group is working with states to clean up voter rolls and investigate discrepancies. The Electronic Registration Information Center (ERIC) was established in 2012 with support from the Pew Charitable Trusts. ERIC analyzes and matches U.S. Postal Service change-of-address forms, death records, vehicle registrations and voter registration records to ensure voter roll accuracy. Membership has steadily grown to include 20 states and the District of Columbia, and the independent organization is fully funded by the member states.

“President Trump has expressed his concerns about voter fraud both in meetings with lawmakers and on Twitter,” Stegmaier said. “To ensure that our elections are not vulnerable to fraud, states have the opportunity to work with an effective partner, ERIC, to correct voter registration rolls.”

Stegmaier’s research focuses on elections in the U.S. and abroad. She also has served as an international election observer with the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) in Macedonia, Kyrgyzstan and Belarus.

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