Electronic Privacy Information Center

Statewide Centralized Voter Registration Databases

Top News | Overview | Voter Registration in the News | Resources



The U.S. Election Assistance Commission has provided to states voluntary guidelines on the creations of statewide-centralized voter registration databases.

Top News


The first step in participating as a voter in an election held in the United States is voter registration. Only six states allow same-day voter registration. For this reason, the process and efficiency of this function provided by states is critical to full participation in public elections by citizens.

In the wake of the 2000 election disaster, Congress passed the Help America Vote Act of 2002 (HAVA), which stipulated minimum election standards for states and provided funds for states to replace punch card voting systems, also mandating that all states should have centralized voter registration lists. The legislation established for the first time a federal role in how local and state governments conduct elections involving federal offices.

HAVA also created a new federal agency, the U.S. Election Assistance Commission, headed by four bipartisan members. The agency must, among other duties, provide guidance to states on the "testing, certification, decertification, and recertification of voting system hardware and software by accredited laboratories." 

History of Federal Voter Registration

Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. --Martin Luther King Jr.

The current era of voting rights was established by the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, which was intended to enforce the 15th Amendment to the Constitution of the United States of America, which established that "Rights [should] Not Be Denied on Account of Race." This amendment was passed by Congress on February 26, 1869 and was ratified February 3, 1870 in response to resistance to extending the protections offered by the 14th Amendment to include recently freed slaves. The 14th Amendment established "Privileges and Immunities, Due Process, and Equal Protection" for all citizens.

Very little occurred with federal efforts to address the disparity of treatment experienced by citizens of color who inhabited the United States until the civil rights era circa 1950-1970. The passage of the Civil Rights Act in 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965 opened a new chapter in United States history and furthered the goal of full citizen participation in self governance.

In 1993 Congress enacted the National Voter Registration Act (also known as the "NVRA" and the "Motor Voter Act"). The act is designed to enhance voting opportunities for every American and makes it easier for all Americans to exercise their fundamental right to vote. The means of achieving greater access to opportunities to register to vote included placing voter registration applications in State Department of Motor Vehicle offices, government social service offices, and requiring strict rules for purging voting registration lists prior to elections.

The NVRA requires states to provide:

  • "Motor Voter" Registration - Voter registration must be available at the same time as driver's license application or renewal.
  • Agency-based Voter Registration - When an individual applies for services, service renewal or address change, voter registration opportunities must be offered to each applicant. These services are available through all offices that provide public assistance and all offices that provide state-funded programs primarily engaged in providing services to persons with disabilities.
  • Mail-in Voter Registration - Voter registration must be accepted by mail-in forms developed by each state and the Federal Election Commission.
  • Detailed information regarding the National Voter Registration Act of 1993 is available at U.S. Department of Justice Civil Rights Division Voting Section

    Problems with Voter Registration Resists

  • Voter Registration and Privacy

    There should be appropriate oversight of efforts to register the homeless when done in conjunction with providing them with vital services. There should be no condition of benefits associated with the act of registering to vote. The choice should be clearly that of the individual to register and participate in a public election. There should also be adequate oversight to ensure that homeless people who wish to participate in the election process are free from intimidation and harm as they exercise their constitutional rights.

    There are approximately 215 million eligible voters in the United States and only 144 million of them are registered to vote according to the report "Voter Privacy in the Digital Age," prepared by the California Voter Foundation. Most citizens know that voter registration rolls are also used to select jury pools for local, state and federal court cases. However, the voter registration data is also shared with political campaigns for the purpose of promotion of their candidates. Unfortunately, this election year it was made very evident that not all solicitations for registration information are to seek out votes. Voters reported getting unsolicited calls from individuals that state that they needed the social security number of registered voters to confirm their registration. The information already publicly available on voter registration records coupled with social security numbers presents a source for identity theft. Others may have used publicly available voter registration information to target voters for suppression and intimidation activities. Reports out of Florida just prior to the November 2nd election indicate that voters had to be content with their party affiliation being changed from Democrat to Republican and strangers offering to pick up completed absentee ballots. Making the decision to participate in public elections should not mean that voters have to give up their right to privacy. Unfortunately, voter registration information in many states is considered public information.

    Other Voter Registration Resources

    Voter Registration Issues in the News


    EPIC Privacy Page | EPIC Home Page

    Last Updated: May 23, 2007
    Page URL: http://www.epic.org/privacy/voting/register/default.html