One thing this election cycle has taught us is that although recent court battles and political arguments over voter identification laws, gerrymandering, and the Voting Rights Act tend to grab the headlines, election officials across the political spectrum are improving how well elections actually work by implementing some of the technological improvements the private sector has been using for years. Consumers — in this case, voters — want the convenience, accessibility, and mobility offered by new technologies. This has led to a quiet revolution in red and blue states alike that has made the voting process more accurate, cost-effective, and efficient. After all, we’re accustomed to using our smartphones and laptops to pay bills, book flights, and scan the news. So why not use them to register to vote or find out where to cast a ballot? A great example of this approach is online voter registration. Four years ago, citizens in only eight states, representing 12 percent of eligible voters nationwide, could register online. But as of the end of September 2014 — with registration deadlines rapidly approaching — almost 110 million of the approximately 225 million eligible U.S. voters were living in the 20 states that now offer online registration. This innovation was driven not by political partisans but by professional election administrators; pioneered by Republican election officials in Arizona and then Washington, online voter registration is now offered by states as red as Kansas and Georgia, and as blue as California and Maryland.
But even with the efficiency of online registration, Americans’ mobility makes it difficult to ensure that voting rolls are accurate, because a large percentage of people don’t realize that their registration requires updating after a move. So multiple states have joined a partnership known as ERIC — the Electronic Registration Information Center — which uses official information, including voter registration rolls, motor vehicle records, postal addresses, and Social Security death records, to identify registrations that are outdated or invalid because the individuals moved, changed names, or died. Eleven states plus the District of Columbia are members of ERIC, and many more are considering joining, particularly since the bipartisan Presidential Commission on Election Administration urged states to do so earlier this year.
State election administrators’ interest in ERIC isn’t surprising, because it’s the best tool they have to keep voter rolls as accurate and complete as possible. But voters benefit, too, because they’re more likely to receive up-to-date information about elections. Furthermore, researchers have confirmed that when states participate in ERIC, they see fewer problems at the polls on Election Day.