Our guest blogger is Lisa Gilbert, a Democracy Advocate for U.S. PIRG.
If there’s one lesson we all learned from recent elections, it’s that their success or failure is dependent on the resources and skills of local and state-level election officials. The 2008 elections were commendable in many ways: for example, 3.4 million more young voters participated than in 2004.
However the increased participation and large numbers of new registrants in this election cycle highlighted the enormous obstacles and cost inefficiencies in our current voter registration system. These inefficiencies cost taxpayers millions and make it harder for election officials to do their jobs.
In U.S.PIRG’s new report, “Saving Dollars, Saving Democracy,” we surveyed 100 counties and found that they spent more than $33 million in public money on registration implementation and registration error-correction issues in 2008. And as large as this number is, we know that it’s only the tip of the iceberg.
In addition to the costs of the endless data-entry and ongoing handling of errors that our report looked at, almost every county had costs associated with an out-dated system. For example, in LA County, data-entering the huge influx of registration forms is so time consuming that election officials have to overnight the final poll books all across the county the night before every major election. This mailing alone costs over $56,000 per election.
Election officials from coast to coast have similar stories of being forced to apply inefficient, expensive band-aids in order to effectively administer the registration system
If we modernized our system we could save significant resources at the local level and ensure the registration of more citizens. Additionally with a modernized system, election officials could use their elections budgets for activities that promote our democracy, such as training poll-workers, election education, and on more effectively administering Election Day.