RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK, N.C. – The Electronic Registration Information Center (ERIC), a nonprofit group, improved voter registration and the accuracy of voter files in the seven participating states, according to a new report by RTI International.
ERIC was established in 2012 by seven states (Colorado, Delaware, Maryland, Nevada, Utah, Virginia, and Washington) with the support of The Pew Charitable Trusts. ERIC’s sole mission is helping states improve the accuracy of America’s voter rolls and increase access to voter registration for all eligible citizens.
The report, funded by Pew, evaluates Stage 1 of ERIC, which used data from motor vehicle offices to identify and contact, via a postcard, more than 5.7 million people who were likely eligible but not registered to vote in the 2012 general election. ERIC’s data technology makes it possible to locate unregistered but eligible voters with more confidence than when states take similar actions on their own.
“The population targeted in Stage 1 is especially difficult to register to vote,” said Barry Burden, Ph.D., an RTI consultant and researcher for the evaluation and professor of political science at the University of Wisconsin. “Unregistered individuals tend to have fewer resources, and in many cases they have not registered because they are not part of communities or social networks that facilitate participation.”
The research showed that states involved in ERIC saw improvement relative to non-ERIC states in several areas. The findings include:
- Total voter registration: ERIC states showed a net improvement in voter registration of 1.23 percentage points over non-ERIC states.
- New voter registration: ERIC states showed a net improvement in new registration of 0.87 percentage points over non-ERIC states.
- Voter turnout: ERIC states showed a net increase in voter turnout of 2.36 percentage points over non-ERIC states.
- Voter file errors: State officials found that the data ERIC makes available enable them to make valuable corrections to birthdates and other fields in voter files.
“Although the percentages are small, those numbers represent hundreds of thousands of newly registered voters and real improvements to state voter files,” Burden said.
ERIC’s Stage 2 activities, the impact of which will also be evaluated, focus on voter list maintenance. It will use voter records, motor vehicles files, death records, identification of duplicate entries, and change-of-address information to improve the accuracy of state voter files.
State election administrators believe that ERIC will help automate list maintenance and reduce costs. “In some ways, the effects of ERIC will not be fully realized for several years,” said Gary Bland, Ph.D., RTI Governance Fellow and manager of the evaluation. “Registering new voters and cleaning voter rolls are iterative processes that involve repeated data matching, learning, and actions by state officials.”