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Election Administration and Voting Survey (EAVS)

By:Sean Greene

An U.S. Election Assistance Commission blog written by EAC Director for Research Sean Greene about the Elections Assistance Voting Survey.


Statewide Voter Registration Systems

Aug 31, 2017

As part of our countdown to National Voter Registration Day on September 26, the EAC is highlighting a variety of resources, data, and other related information about the registration process. An essential component of this is statewide voter registration databases, which are the foundation of the elections process.

The Help America Vote Act (HAVA) of 2002 required states to adopt a computerized statewide voter registration list. States responded to this requirement in different ways. Some states adopted a single, central platform at the state level that connected to terminals in local jurisdictions. This type of system is typically referred to as a “top-down” voter registration system.

Other states have a state voter registration database that gathers and aggregates information from their local jurisdictions’ voter registration databases. This type of system is typically referred to as a “bottom-up” system. Other states have what is termed a hybrid system, a system with a mix of top-down and bottom-up characteristics.

The EAC’s 2016 Statutory Overview asked questions of all 50 states, the District of Columbia, American Samoa, Guam, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands about their laws and practices related to election administration, including descriptions of their voter registration systems.  

The 2016 overview found a majority of states – 38 – have voter registration databases that function in a top-down manner, meaning that the state has a single platform that collects and stores all voter registration information from jurisdictions.

Nine states have a hybrid system. For example, Texas has 254 counties and 215 of the counties use the Texas statewide voter registration database directly to manage their voter registration data and elections. An additional 39 Texas counties manage their own voter registration data using a third-party vendor. The data from these 39 counties are processed with the state database every night so that all database changes between the state system and each county can be reconciled.

Of the nine states that indicated the use of a hybrid system, three states – Oklahoma, Rhode Island, and Texas – reported that local election offices transmit data to the state daily and five states – Arizona, Florida, Mississippi, Washington and Wisconsin – reported that local election offices transmit data in real-time or near real-time. North Carolina did not provide this information.

Six states reported having a bottom-up voter registration system, where local election offices transmit information retained at the local level and compiled at regular intervals to form the statewide system. This transmittal of data is daily in three states – Illinois, Nevada, and Tennessee – and in real-time or near real-time in two states – New York and Ohio. California did not provide this information.

These numbers have remained fairly consistent since the overview was first administered in 2008 and they provide a deeper picture of the different approaches state and local election officials take in managing millions of voter registration records. 

 
State Type of Voter Registration Database
Alabama Top down
Alaska Top down
American Samoa1  
Arizona Hybrid
Arkansas Top down
California Bottom up
Colorado Top down
Connecticut Top down
Delaware Top down
District of Columbia Top down
Florida Hybrid
Georgia Top down
Guam Top down
Hawaii Top down
Idaho Top down
Illinois Bottom Up
Indiana Top down
Iowa Top down
Kansas Top down
Kentucky Top down
Louisiana Top down
Maine Top down
Maryland Top down
Massachusetts Top down
Michigan Top down
Minnesota Top down
Mississippi Hybrid
Missouri Top down
Montana Top down
Nebraska Top down
Nevada Bottom up
New Hampshire Top down
New Jersey Top down
New Mexico Top down
New York Bottom up
North Carolina Hybrid
North Dakota2  
Ohio Bottom up
Oklahoma Hybrid
Oregon Top down
Pennsylvania Top down
Puerto Rico Top down
Rhode Island Hybrid
South Carolina Top down
South Dakota Top down
Tennessee Bottom up
Texas Hybrid
Utah Top down
Vermont Top down
Virgin Islands Top down
Virginia Top down
Washington Hybrid
West Virginia Top down
Wisconsin Hybrid
Wyoming Top down

1 American Samoa did not respond to the question.

2 North Dakota does not maintain a voter registration list or database. However, they do have a list of previous voters.

 

 
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