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List Maintenance in the National Voter Registration Act

Election Administration

The EAC is wrapping up List Maintenance Month by going back to basics and sharing an important resource on how federal law applies to list maintenance activities. 

The National Voter Registration Act of 1993 (NVRA), sometimes referred to as the “Motor Voter Act,” establishes certain voter registration requirements with respect to elections for federal office. Section 8, for example, contains provisions relevant to maintaining accurate voter registration lists and protections against inadvertently removing properly registered voters. Six states are exempt from NVRA because, on or after August 1, 1994, they either had no voter registration requirements (North Dakota) or offered Election Day voter registration at polling sites (Idaho, Minnesota, New Hampshire, Wisconsin and Wyoming).

The Voting Section of the Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division, which enforces civil provisions in federal voting laws, maintains a questions and answers page on its website regarding the NVRA. The page answers 46 questions about the NVRA, including more than 15 questions relevant to list maintenance. These include helpful information on:

  • The circumstances under which a state can remove a person’s name from the voter registration rolls for mental incapacity, criminal conviction, death and change of residence;
  • Time restrictions on when list maintenance can be conducted; and
  • Reporting requirements for states on their voter registration and list maintenance activities. 

The website also includes summaries of cases initiated by the Department of Justice that raise claims under the NVRA, with links to associated complaints and consent decrees. These summaries include five cases related to Section 8 list maintenance provisions.

Interesting in learning more about the NVRA and list maintenance? Take a look at the biennial NVRA Studies compiled by the EAC since the 2004 elections (and the Federal Election Commission before that time). Beginning with our report on the 2016 elections, the NVRA Study is now included as part of the Election Administration and Voting Survey Report.

This post concludes our List Maintenance Month series, but as election officials know, the task of keeping voter rolls accurate and up-to-date is never finished. Those looking for additional tips and resources can check out our Maintenance Monday series and the EAC’s Spring Cleaning: Voter List Maintenance Best Practices, Tools and Success Stories webcast from last year. And stay tuned for new EAC resources on the NVRA and list maintenance that are in the works for later this year.


best practices, election administration, list maintenance, procedures