Four years ago, David Becker and John Lindback helped lead a study about voter registration in the US. The results were alarming. More than 1.8 million dead people were still registered to vote. That’s because systems designed to remove them were flawed, according to their study, conducted by the Pew Center on the States. A total of 24 million voter records — one out of every eight — were “significantly inaccurate or no longer valid.” After the study, the Pew Charitable Trusts worked with several states to form the Electronic Registration Information Center, or ERIC, to clean up voter registration rolls, which get out of whack when we move, change names or die. Today, 21 states and the District of Columbia work with ERIC to compare and analyze data across each other’s voter and motor vehicle registrations, US Postal Service addresses and Social Security death records. States also apply sophisticated cybersecurity tools to fend off hackers. But the fixes take time.
“People expect the government is going to be more efficient than it is,” said Becker, now executive director of the Center for Election Innovation and Research. “They don’t realize they have to tell many different state and federal agencies about something like a move.”
Even with these registration issues, actual attempts to tamper with elections are almost nonexistent in the US, current suggestions to the contrary. “By any measure, voter fraud is extraordinarily rare,” according to a 2007 report by the New York University School of Law. In 2014, the same researcher reported he’d found just 31 instances of voter fraud between 2000 and 2014.
That means deaths caused by lightning strikes in the US are about 15 times more common than cases of voter fraud.