Thursday, October 30, 2008

Votes We Can Believe In, Part 2: How You Can Make Every Vote Count

On Tuesday, ACS welcomes Scott Novakowski for Votes We Can Believe In, Part 2: How You Can Make Every Vote Count, a discussion about obstacles voters will face next Tuesday and what is being done to address them. Mr. Novakowsi is a Senior Policy Analyst with the Democracy Program at DEMOS, where he works on issues related to the National Voter Registration Act and ensuring that historically marginalized populations have access to voting.

Mr. Novakowski began by describing voter roll purging. When done properly, purging keeps the voting rolls clean. The National Voter Registration Act tells states how to perform purging and prevents states from purging within 90 days of an election. Howevever, a recent Brennan Center study found that voters who are purged are not notified and that the process is prone to error. The study noted that the purging process is often performed with great secrecy and as a result not much is known about how states go about it.

Another important process is database matching, which is used to create purge lists and satisfy the requirements of the Help America Vote Act, which requires states to create centralized databases of voters. However, states are using this information to strike voters whose information does not match up perfectly. Yet, human error in the entry of data or completion of forms is almost always responsible for data not matching correctly. Mr. Novakowski noted that Florida has a no-match, no-vote law and that a suit in Ohio for similar enforcement is underway.

In terms of what to anticipate for Election Day, Mr. Novakowski said that there will be very long lines in many places across the country. Not only are many jurisdictions unprepared for what will be unusually high turnout, but election resources are seriously misallocated. A result may be that many voters end up casing provisional ballots. While this is better than their not being able to vote at all, a provisional ballot is not a guarantee that a vote will actually be counted. In 2004, for example, one out of three ballots were not counted.

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