Presidential Commission on Election Administration Promotes Delaware's Voter Registration System as National Standard
Praise for Cooperation of Department of Elections & Division of Motor Vehicles
Dover -- Last week the Presidential Commission on Election Administration delivered its recommendations to President Barrack Obama, pursuant to Executive Order 13639, which established the Commission and defined its mission. The report detailed voting practices across the country and developed myriad recommendations and "best practices" to improve the voting system and tracking process used by the states.
Among the best practices described in the Report the Delaware Division of Motor Vehicles and the Department of Elections were singled out for developing the functional user interface, "e-signature." In place since 2009, the E-Signature system allows all Delaware license holders to automatically register to vote or update information if they are already registered voters. This coordination produces a number of benefits. Among them are increased efficiency for the staff of both the DMV and Elections, saving state tax-payers over $200,000 per year, and an increased level of reporting accuracy due to the real time transfer of voter information directly to the Elections office database.
The Presidential Report is posted on www.supportthevoter.gov. Significant information is listed in the report and appendix on how states and local election officials have developed and implemented innovative programs. The full report is listed separately as a PDF file at this link:
The full evaluation of the Delaware Model between the DMV and Department of Elections is described here:
Recommendation: States should seamlessly integrate voter data acquired through Departments of Motor Vehicles with their statewide voter registration lists.
The Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV), known in each state as the agency issuing driver's licenses and state personal identification cards, plays a pivotal role in the registration of America's voters. As a critical actor in the creation and maintenance of each state's voter registration file, the DMV can also contribute to the degree of orderliness and efficiency of operation in each community's polling places on Election Day. The NVRA, enacted more than 20 years ago, mandates that each state's DMV offer an opportunity to register to vote for every citizen applying for a driver's license or state personal identification card or changing an address on one of those documents. If there is any identification document that citizens will keep current, it is the state-issued driver's license or personal identification card. Universally, this NVRA program, commonly known as "Motor Voter," is embraced across political party lines because such a wide swath of the American electorate frequents these offices on a regular basis.
Yet the data compiled biennially by the EAC reflect poorly on the efficacy of Motor Voter. Significantly less than one-third of new registrations are processed through motor vehicle departments. Only seven states and the District of Columbia report total motor vehicle department registrations accounting for more than 50 percent of the total registrations received in the 2011-2012 election cycle. The low level of participation by DMVs leaves no doubt that Motor Voter is not working as intended.
Delaware and Michigan have designed systems that seamlessly integrate the Motor Voter transaction into the DMV driver's license application program in such a manner as to keep a large number of voter records current and to save the DMV money in reduced staff time committed to this program. The Delaware DMV Director and the Election Commissioner together developed an interface called "e-signature." It began because of the number of voters who appeared at polling places believing they had registered at the DMV, but were not on the voter rolls. When citizens go to the DMV for driver's license services, they provide their information to the DMV clerk. By following a script on their computer screen, the DMV clerks now ask citizens if they would like to register to vote or update their information if they are already registered. They view their information on a screen that is also a credit card-style signature device. On that screen, voters certify that they are citizens, select their party affiliations and sign the forms. All of this information is then transmitted in real-time to the Department of Elections for the voter's county. The election office no longer processes registration applications from the DMV by hand. All information is now entered and transmitted electronically, saving time every day and especially on Election Days.
An improperly functioning DMV can naturally lead to Election Day confusion. Voters who appear at their polling place after moving can find that their voter registration records have not been updated to conform to their new driver's license addresses. As a result, a greater number of provisional ballots are cast, leading to congestion in the polling place and unnecessary post-election verification work for county and local election officials. In other states, the voters are directed to their old polling places to vote, which may be located in another jurisdiction within the state. The Commission strongly recommends that states follow the Delaware model and adopt procedures that lead to the seamless integration of data between DMV's and election offices.
The Commission notes that the adoption of online registration will provide DMV's with a ready-made portal to facilitate seamless transmission of voter registration data to the election office. An online registration portal can open at a specific point during the driver's license transaction, thus providing the convenient opportunity to register contemplated by the NVRA. Indeed, with online voter registration, a registration widget or portal can be placed on any state website to facilitate registration either by a voter or an administrator who is filling in a voter's information for other purposes.