Forget the Walking Dead, get ready for the Voting Dead!

Zombies are all the rage right now.  They’re even coming to a voting booth near you!

The Pew Center on the States recently released a report entitled  “Inaccurate, Costly, and Inefficient: Evidence That America’s Voter Registration System Needs an Upgrade.”  Among other findings, the study discovered “more than 1.8 million deceased individuals are listed as active voters.”  Here come the Voting Dead.

Also, Pew found “approximately 24 million – one of every eight – active voter registrations in the United States are no longer valid, or are significantly inaccurate.” 

But don’t worry, some people are getting all the paperwork filled out correctly.  Unfortunately, about 2.75 million of them have done it in more than one state.  A good 70,000 of them are registered in three or more states at the same time.

Our antique voter registration system doesn’t work very well, but at least it’s expensive.  Pew conducted a study with Oregon that found “state and local taxpayers spent $4.11 per active voter to process registrations and maintain a voter list” during the 2008 election.  In contrast, Canada uses a modern electronic system for voter registration and spends less than 35 cents per registration, even though a far higher percentage of the Canadian population is registered to vote.

The source of much of this confusion, according to the Pew study, is people who change addresses within two years of an election.  This is made worse by the large number of third-party groups shuffling paperwork close to elections, and overwhelming local election officials.  The election to come will be spiced with further chaos because the home-foreclosure epidemic has caused so many people to change addresses. 

Interestingly, a national survey cited by Pew found “one in four voters interviewed about Election Day 2008 assumed that election officials or the U.S. Postal Service update registrations automatically with each move.”  It’s really not surprising they would make that assumption, because in a properly managed data processing environment, it’s not necessary to file multiple sets of paperwork with different agencies to document the same event.  The children of the Information Age are surprised to find themselves stuck in horse-and-buggy elections.

“Voter registration in the United States largely reflects its 19th-century origins and has not kept pace with advancing technology and a mobile society,” the Pew study concludes.  That’s not entirely an accident of bureaucratic inertia.  19th-century elections provide far more… flexibility for those who like a bit of chaos at the voting booth during close elections.