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The Daily Tar Heel

LOS ANGELES (MCT) — One out of eight voting registrations is inaccurate, and about a quarter of those people eligible to cast a ballot are not even registered, according to a report released Tuesday by the Pew Center on the States.

The report describes a voting system in confusion, with about 1.8 million dead people listed on the rolls, some 2.8 million with active registrations in more than one state and 12 million with serious enough errors to make it unlikely that mail, from any political party or election board, can reach the right destination. In all, some 24 million registrations contain significant errors.

At the same time, the report, titled “Inaccurate, Costly, and Inefficient,” found that at least 51 million potential voters are not registered, and are thus outside the electoral system. That number and the flaws in the existing registration systems are large enough to sway elections from the local to national level, especially in this presidential year.

The United States has a long and rich history of voting, with both good and bad elements. Fights over who is eligible to vote — and how to get them to the polls — date back to colonial times, sometimes featuring outright fraud or legal restrictions based on property ownership or education.
Even in the current election cycle, access to voting remains an issue. In general, Democrats have argued for the broadest definition of voting with the fewest obstacles, a position that favors their core groups of poor and young voters. Conservatives generally raise questions about whether the system is too open to fraud.

The problems identified in the Pew report are not a question of widespread fraud; rather, the report calls for better use of technology to update voting registration systems. In conjunction with the report, eight states — Colorado, Delaware, Maryland, Nevada, Oregon, Utah, Virginia and Washington — said they are working on a centralized data system to help identify people whose registrations may be out of date.

“Voter registration is the gateway to participating in our democracy, but these antiquated, paper-based systems are plagued with errors and inefficiencies,” said David Becker, director of election initiatives at the Pew Center on the States. “These problems waste taxpayer dollars, undermine voter confidence, and fuel partisan disputes over the integrity of our elections.”

Outdated systems are also costly, the report found. In 2008, Oregon taxpayers spent $4.11 per active voter to process registrations. By contrast, Canada, which uses modern technology common in the private sector, devotes less than 35 cents per voter to process registrations.

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