Voter Registration: What You Need to Know About Voter Roll Changes

Image of three people at a voter registration station

Many aspects of voter registration have changed in the last few years. It can be difficult to follow all the changes, but here’s what you need to know.

Voter registration was once the domain of paper forms and bad handwriting, but most states these days allow voters more convenient and effective options. Many locations are able to create or change voter records online or while doing business at another government agency like the DMV.

Doug Chapin of the University of Minnesota’s Humphrey School of Public Affairs has been chronicling voter registration changes including:

  • The sharp increase in states adopting online voter registration (OVR) since 2012
  • Battles over adoption of OVR in key battlegrounds like Florida and Ohio
  • Growing interest in so-called "automatic voter registration"

Chapin reports that states are making it easier than ever for voters to check and update their voter records - which is especially helpful in reducing duplicate records or in enabling voters to change their party affiliation in advance of a primary.

Several states are coming together to share information. This collective data can help find ineligible or deceased voters who need to come off the rolls as well as eligible, but unregistered voters who could become registered. It will be increasingly important for election administration to stay informed and continue to collaborate with other states.

Tracking the changes - and mastering the technical and policy issues they entail - are a key skill for the next generation of election officials nationwide.

Fair and effective election administration, including voter registration, requires professionals who are competent and non-partisan. The Humphrey School of Public Affairs, top 10 in the country's public affairs graduate schools, offers a first-of- its-kind online program to prepare professionals in election administration. The program is presented in an accessible and stimulating online format that allows students to continue with their current employment while working toward a University certificate.

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