The Dark Side of Voter Registration

I’ve noticed more coverage of election integrity issues relating to voter registration. It’s good to see some focus on VR-related problems, but I don’t see much about a deeper issue — transparency and publc accountability of the (im)proper use of voter registration systems and processes.

Here is a particularly good article on VR problems, "Greg Palast and Robert F. Kennedy Jr.: ‘Steal Back Your Vote!’" in a fine political e-journal, TruthOut. That’s some good reporting on some fun rhetoric , but when Sari Gelzer writes "purged from the voter rolls," what this really means in practice is either one of two problems with the state voter registration systems that were mandated by HAVA. The first problem is abuse of a VR system, or gaming the system, to intentionally block people from voting. The other is well meaning using a VR system (especially in transitioning county records to the state as required by HAVA) that causes invalidation of voter records, even though that wasn’t the specific desire of the person.

It doesn’t matter which one! Whether your franchise intentionally stolen or unintentionally blocked, the result is the same, regardless of intent. The antidote isn’t blocking these voter registration practices — that would require a non-existent (and likely never-existent) consensus on the right practices. The solution is to cast sunlight on the VR systems, to make the use of them visible to the public so that anyone can see who has done what to monkey with voter records, well-meaning or otherwise.

That’s why, at OSDV, we’re developing a public, transparent, HAVA-compliant, digital voter registration system that will be freely available as open-source technology for states to implement DVRSs that serve the public, and cast sunlight on voter registration system operations.


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