What does the law say about Voter Registration Data? And why is Pennsylvania Ignoring it?
There are very specific federal and state laws that govern the voter registration databases built and maintained by each state.
National Voter Registration Act
Let’s start with the 1993 National Voter Registration Act, also known as NVRA, or the “motor voter” law. NVRA tells the states what they must do to maintain accurate and current voter registration lists.
Under NVRA, all who register to vote must submit a signed voter registration application. Submitting a false application is prohibited by law. No one can register another person to vote!
Under NVRA, the states are required to mail a notice to each voter who submits an application. This notice is either a valid voter ID card or a rejection notice if the voter is found to be ineligible.
NVRA disallows states from removing voters for failure to vote! And, before a voter is removed because he or she moved to a new county, the state must send a notice to the new address. This allows the voter to easily update his or her records.
NVRA tells that states that “all records and papers relating to any application, registration, or other act requisite to voting in any election for federal office, be preserved for a period of twenty-two months from that federal election.”
If something is changed in a voter registration record, the state is required to document that change!
The state of Pennsylvania has its own law about Voter Registration—Title 25. Now let’s have a look at that.
Title 25 is the section of Pennsylvania’s statutes that deals with all election related legislation. The majority of its current framework was accepted Jan. 31, 2002.
In PA, how can voters legally be registered? What are their options for changing a registration? Title 25, section 1222 provides for the creation of the Statewide Uniform Registry of Electors (SURE) to answer those questions.
Statewide Uniform Registry of Electors (SURE)
SURE exists to ensure that registration records accurately reflect people who die, change their names, or move between counties.
Section 1328.1, describes SURE registration numbers. Each voter should have ONE number, and it should never change.
After a voter registers, any change to the registration requires some action by the voter, except for changes to address or district caused by street renaming or redistricting. In these cases, the voter must be notified.
A voter can request a change of political party or report an address or name change fairly easily. The voter can make this request in person, by mail, or via the online form. This makes sense because those things change sometimes.
What if you want to change something else. Your gender maybe. Or perhaps there was an error in your date of birth. This is a bit more complicated. To correct a DOB mistake you need to provide a copy of your birth certificate, and submit this form (PDF).
Title 25 does not directly address gender changes, but presumably it follows a similar process. Either a licensed medical or social worker can sign this form and the voter can submit it in person to a PennDOT licensing center.
The voter re-submits the registration after updating the records. Under section 1328, the state will evaluate the new information and inform the voter by mail if the registration is accepted or rejected.
Street name changes or redistricting can cause changes without voter involvement. The voter needs to initiate all other changes and will need to mailing confirmation as well as send additional documentation if necessary.
What does this all mean?
Voter registration information isn’t supposed to change by itself. And it isn’t supposed to change because of some kind of database error. There is a specific procedure and the voter is always involved.
So, how’s Pennsylvania doing with all this? With their own state laws and the federal law, we shouldn’t find too many oddities in the SURE voter registration database. Especially not ones the voter doesn’t know about.
But, what is supposed to happen isn’t always what does happen.
Why are we telling you all this? Just you wait …
Welcome to the Rabbit Hole. A journey way down into the election system. Do you still think that the machines are the most dangerous element of our election system? Suspend your beliefs for a bit. It goes far beyond the machines.
Read the rest of the Pennsylvania Rabbit Hole Series:
- Pennsylvania Rabbit Hole Part I
- Pennsylvania Rabbit Hole Part II
- Pennsylvania Rabbit Hole Part III (Current article)
- Pennsylvania Rabbit Hole Part IV
- Pennsylvania Rabbit Hole Part V
- Pennsylvania Rabbit Hole Part VI
- Pennsylvania Rabbit Hole Part VII
- Pennsylvania Rabbit Hole Part VIII
- Pennsylvania Rabbit Hole Part IX
- Pennsylvania Rabbit Hole Part X
Written by Unhackthevote