The Help America Vote Act (HAVA) introduced sweeping changes to federal election administration laws. Among the changes was a requirement that states create a computerized, centralized statewide database of all eligible voters. HAVA and the National Voter Registration Act (NVRA) provide that states shall periodically remove ineligible voters from the statewide official voter list. States are required to develop specific standards for implementing a list maintenance program that is transparent, consistent and not discriminatory. A lack of clear and specific state criteria for performing list maintenance programs has resulted in inconsistent standards between states and within states for federal elections. Poorly developed and executed programs for matching voter lists to external databases have led to the disenfranchisement of eligible voters in many states. Frequently, the disenfranchisement has a disparate impact on minorities.
This policy brief explores the federal law relating to list maintenance, presents an overview of problems that have arisen as a result of the implementation of federal list maintenance provisions, and gives specific recommendations for minimizing or eliminating list maintenance errors that adversely impact voters.