Election Registration Information Center
ERIC is a non-profit data-sharing platform managed by 30 states and the District of Columbia to ensure their voter registration lists are accurately updated. States at least provide voter registration and motor vehicle license information for the platform. To better ensure data integrity and sharing across the nation, it is recommended that all 50 states and D.C. join ERIC.
Effective online election portals allow voters to register and request mail ballots in one integrated process. These systems provide voters with additional accessibility and convenience, and lowers administrative costs for jurisdictions, while providing an immediate electronic backstop for voter data.
National Change Of Address
The NCOA database is maintained by the United States Postal Service; 36 states and the District of Columbia use the database to ensure address accuracy. Use of the database is a best practice states should adopt to increase accuracy of elections and voter confidence in election results. Further, proactively updating addresses within states (the model in Colorado) is more efficient than the process in other states that first send a notice to voters, require voters to confirm the address change by returning a form (even though they already have confirmed to USPS), and then have the election officials process the form on the backend.
Automatic Voter Registration
AVR shifts voter registration from being an opt-in system to an opt-out system, which gives voters frequent opportunities to update their voter information when interacting with other government offices instead of needing to proactively contact their election office. Eighteen states and the District of Columbia have already adopted AVR with great success and cost savings. Additionally, AVR ensures data is accurate and enhances election security.
Same Day Voter Registration
SDVR allows voters to register on Election Day at their polling location or vote center; SDVR is available in 22 states and the District of Columbia. Same day voter registration follows the same process as voter registration to ensure voters are eligible to vote and decreases barriers to voting. SDVR is best coupled with a vote center model where all voters can use all voting locations rather than an assigned neighborhood polling place model to prevent administrative backlog.
Ballot tracking allows voters to track their ballot like a package via an intelligent mail barcode and receive a notification every step of the way. If the ballot is not accepted, the ballot tracking service can also instruct a voter on how to “cure” or verify their ballot. Ballot tracking provides transparency which increases voter confidence and improves security and accessibility.
Signature verification, also known as signature matching, increases voter trust by ensuring that all mail ballots were cast by the intended voter. Signature verification should be conducted by trained election professionals using software, and is best when used with a “cure” process that allows voters to verify their signature if discrepancies arise. Surveys show this is one of the easiest ways to increase voter confidence in election integrity.
Post-election Risk Limiting Audits
Jennifer Morrell, a nationally recognized election expert, defined risk limiting audits as “a post-election tabulation audit in which a random sample of voted ballots is manually examined for evidence that the originally reported outcome of the election is correct,” per her guide on RLAs, written in partnership with Democracy Fund.
Effective Cure Processes
A cure process whereby voters have the opportunity to correct issues with their ballots; this practice lowers rejection rates of mail ballots. Notification systems are key to robust cure processes so voters are alerted they need to take action to verify their mail ballot affidavit. Many mail ballots are returned on election day necessitating an effective cure process to extend beyond election day.
Preprocessing includes any steps an election office must take before a mail ballot is ready for tallying. This typically includes marking them as “received,” signature verification, identifying any errors with a ballot that need to be “cured” by the voter, removing ballots from their envelopes and flattening them to be scanned. Preprocessing prevents a backlog of ballots and ensures election results are delivered quickly which increases voter confidence in election integrity. Pre-processing can also aid in operational efficiencies by requiring less equipment to process ballots.
Prepaying postage for the return of mail ballots on behalf of voters is an easy way to simplify the ballot return process and increase ballot return rates. Most states that do cover postage use business reply mail for their prepaid postage, where the state only pays if the voter mails the envelope back. That way, the state doesn’t have to pay anything for ballots that are returned through non-USPS options. The impact on vulnerable voters who may not have easy access to stamps is substantial and many times the cost for a ballot is not just a first class stamp and the amount can vary across jurisdictions which creates confusion.
States may choose to allow counties to proactively mail all voters a ballot for an election. This policy can be extremely efficient for voters as well as cost effective for local jurisdictions. Like a permanent absentee list, providing counties with this option is often a first step prior to expanding vote at home systems and allow counties to slowly adopt and acclimate to mailing all voters a ballot. This also empowers local communities to determine the best option. This policy has been utilized in Montana, Utah, North Dakota, and Nebraska.
Accepting ballots received after election day if they are postmarked as sent by election day can reduce rejection rates and increase voter confidence. The ballot receipt window should give enough time for ballots to reach the election office, for most states a minimum of 3 days post-election is adequate.
Secure, weather-proof boxes with tamper-evident seals that are monitored when voters can deposit ballots should be located in places where voters frequent, and equitably distributed across jurisdictions. A clear chain of custody plan will account for a ballot and who has responsibility for it at every step of the process from collecting the ballots through tabulation. Many jurisdictions have effecti
Polling Place Drop Off
Direct drop off increases voter confidence in the receipt of their ballot. Polling places and vote centers should be able to accept mail ballots during early voting and on election day.
Forty five states and the District of Columbia offered early voting options in 2020 to meet the needs of modern voters who wish to avoid long lines of election day. Low-income people, essential workers, shift workers, the elderly and those with disabilities — our people who are most vulnerable to disenfranchisement benefit the most from guaranteed early voting periods.
The results are in! Voting by mail was the preferred choice for our #VoteAtHome champs for the ... general election. More states need to expand options for voters to participate in democracy.
How did you vote in the general election #VoteAtHome champs?