Ohio voting registration decision

| Comments (3) | Voting
The Supreme Court has ruled for Ohio Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner. The background here is that there were a lot of new voter registrations in Ohio and the Republican party was trying to challenge many of those registrations on the basis of mismatches between the registrations and other databases (e.g., driverse license records). The Supremes ruled for Ohio on technical grounds, namely that HAVA doesn't provide a private right of action that the Republicans can sue under.

I don't have an opinion on who should have won this lawsuit—that's a question for lawyers—but it certainly seems likely that many of thee discrepancies are innocuous, as suggested by the Times:

Voting experts and state election officials have raised concerns about treating flagged voters differently because the databases used to check registrations are prone to errors. Most non-matches are the result of typographical errors by government officials, computer errors and use of nicknames or middle initials, not voter ineligibility, they said.

In one audit of match failures in 2004 by New York City election officials, more than 80 percent of the failures were found to have resulted from errors by government officials; most of the remaining failures were because of immaterial discrepancies between the two records.

For example, I generally don't use my middle name on official forms. My driver's license doesn't have my middle name on it, but my passport does, so what do I put on my voter registration? And when I move, do I have to remember what I had last time? That said, it's not clear how to resolve these issues in a system like the one we have now, where a lot of people don't register and we don't have any universal system of identification.


You do it like New Zealand does: your voter registration IS your official identity, everything else is subordinate to that. So the only name, address and so forth that matter are the ones on the electoral register; change it, and the form has a privacy consent on it that lets the registrar of electors fix the rest of the government's records on your behalf. So your car registrations, tax registration, and sundry other government records are automatically updated.

[sighs heavily]

New Zealand has 4 million citizens. The US has over 300 million. Your model fails on every front.

Voting needs to accomplish a very narrow set of goals. A person must be able to put their vote in anonymous fashion in the district they live in and that person should only be able to vote once and a physical record should be recorded. Thats it boys and girls.

I have never understood the deal with voter registration. It seems very odd to me.

The state is supposed to know who are allowed to vote. If the state can't even keep track of this you are bound to have cheating. So, why not just register everybody who are allowed to vote and tell them where they are supposed to vote. Works perfectly in Sweden. Unless you vote by mail you get the place where you are supposed to vote assigned to you (usually within a reasonable distance of where you live). Everybody votes on paper. The votes are counted by hand in each district several times and the results from 99% of the districts are in the same evening.

How does America manage to make voting such a hard problem?

Leave a comment