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Over 33 Million Dollars Wasted in 100 counties in 2008 Due to Antiquated Voter Registration System

Guest post by Lisa Gilbert, U.S.PIRG Democracy Advocate

If only one lesson was well learned in the recent elections, it is that their success or failure is entirely dependent on the resources and skills of our local and state-level election officials.

The 2008 elections were noteworthy in many ways, for example, the 3.4 million more young voters who participated last fall than in the 2004 cycle. However one thing that the increased participation helped to spotlight are the enormous obstacles and cost inefficiencies inherent in our out-of-date voter registration system.

These challenges 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,” (http://www.uspirg.org/voting-democracy), the 100 counties surveyed had over $33,467,910.00 of public money spent on simple registration implementation and registration error-correction issues in 2008.

Furthermore, as significant as these sums are, we know that they are really only the tip of the iceberg in our country.

In addition to the costs of the endless data-entry and ongoing dealing with errors that our report looked at in detail, almost every county has still further costs associated with our antiquated system.

For example, in Los Angeles County, entering the massive amounts of registration forms into the database system leads to an expense of over $56,000 in every major countywide election just to mail supplemental voter rosters to poll inspectors in time for Election Day.

From coast to coast local election officials have similar stories of being forced to apply expensive band-aids in order to effectively administer the registration system.

If we modernized our system we could both eliminate the majority of the registration cost burden local officials bear and register more citizens. A more modern system would reallocate funds and enable local officials to more effectively administer our elections.

“Saving Dollars, Saving Democracy” (found at http://www.uspirg.org/voting-democracy) recommends implementing a more automatic system that links existing federal and state databases with the state voter rolls to do this.

It is time to put our taxpayer dollars into activities that promote our democracy, like citizen election education and pollworker training, rather than into data-entering forms.

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