On HAVA (again)

Thousands Face Mix-Ups in Voter Registrations
Washington Post (10/18/08) P. A1; Flaherty, Mary Pat

New state voter registration systems across the U.S. are incorrectly rejecting voters and threatening to disrupt the election process. The problems are occurring in states that switched from locally managed lists of voters to statewide databases, a change required by the Help America Vote Act. Although the switch is supposed to be a more efficient and accurate way to keep lists up to date, the transition is causing the systems to question the registrations of thousands of voters when discrepancies occur between their registration information and other official records.

In Alabama, for example, dozens of voters are being labeled as convicted felons due to incorrect lists, and Michigan is scrambling to restore thousands of names it illegally removed from voter rolls due to residency questions.

In Wisconsin, tens of thousands of voters could be affected, as officials admit that their database is wrong one out of every five times it flags a voter, often due to data discrepancies such as a middle initial or a typo in a birth date. Herbert Lin, who is studying the issue for the federal Election Assistance Commission, says that states are not using the “best scientific knowledge known today,” as required by law.

One of the problems with Wisconsin’s database, which has been in place since August, is that 95,000 voters are incorrectly listed as being 108 years old. If no birth date was available when names were moved into the electronic system, it automatically assigned Jan. 1, 1900. By federal law, anyone whose name is flagged must be notified and given a chance to prove his or her eligibility, but voting rights experts say voters are not always alerted, and some, even if they are notified, may simply decide to skip the election as a result.