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(originally published by Booz & Company)


Panel Discussion: “Election Reform: A Systematic Business Solution”

SECRETARY PRIEST:  We have a centralized voter registration database in Arkansas.  It is not, however, interactive.  And there clearly, one of the things that has not come up here today is list maintenance and making sure – I mean, that’s a huge, huge problem for elections officials.

And in Arkansas, as in many states, when you move from one county to the next you have to re-register.  So if the form is not properly filled out and you don’t notify your former address, then you are virtually registered in two counties.

Now, most people are not doing that for the purpose of committing fraud. It’s just an oversight on their part or oversight on the part of whoever is dealing with the form.  So I tend to favor transferring voter registration the way you would transfer your driver’s license.

I think it does two things.  It helps with the accuracy of the list and it also does not inflate the statistics on new registrations.

That said, I think that I advocate centralized voter registration, because I think it would help a whole lot with list maintenance.  Right now in our office we can't cancel voters, we can't add voters.  That is strictly the purview of the country clerk.  So I think there’s some work to be done there, and I’d like to see centralized voter registration.

MR. WALKER:  A little bit off point, but first, obviously, to the extent that you have the centralized voter registration, that’s going to help not only the access but the integrity.  All I can say is, it’s a good thing that there’s somebody that doesn’t mandate things for the federal government.  Because the federal government is terrible with regard to having free-standing, independent, non-integrated systems in every major department and agency, virtually.

So this is something that needs to be done, but it is a major challenge.  It requires a considerable amount of money and it’s not an easy thing to do.

DR. ORNSTEIN:  There are three things that we need to consider here.  The first is, if it’s going to work, it’s got to be interactive.  And that means you’ve got to have money available to have computers at every polling place that can link into the central registration system.

The second is that you’ve got to have some provisional process where if somebody mistakenly shows up at the wrong polling place because they’ve moved, that they can cast a provisional ballot and a set of rules in place where at least the votes that they cast that are appropriate for that spot can be counted, if maybe they can't vote for some local offices.  We want to make it easy for people, where people are not doing this for fraudulent means but just because they don’t know.

The third is, short of a national ID card, which will only happen for reasons that have little to do with voting, we need to develop a different criteria, because for local officials the amount of overlap, people who have the same name, often who have the same name and the same birth date, it becomes an enormous headache.

One way to do this is simply to use the last four digits of the Social Security number, so that you’re not using the Social Security number, which frightens an awful lot of people, but at least a portion of it so that you can make sure that you’re matching the right name with the right person when they show up at the polls.

If you did those things, and the first is the most important, which is computers at the polling places, which is pretty expensive, you’re going to go a long way towards reducing the problems in the system.

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