Responding to the loud wake-up call sounded in the 2000 election, Congress passed the Help America Vote Act (HAVA) in 2002, including provisions to streamline and modernize voter registration databases and establish identification requirements. However, in direct contravention of the intent of HAVA -- to impose fair and more uniform standards for state election administration -- some states have misinterpreted the law and passed onerous
"No Match, No Vote" laws.
Under such statutes, if a state is unable to match the information on a voter's registration application with information in an existing government database, the application is denied outright. Many of these non-matches, however, can be the result of errors outside of the applicant's control such as typographical data entry errors, flaws in existing governmental databases, and poor database matching protocols. By making it more difficult and sometimes impossible for applicants to register to vote, No Match, No Vote laws can and do disenfranchise qualified citizens. Shortly before the 2008 election, Time magazine
declared the "Database Dilemma" number one on their list of "Things That Could Go Wrong on Election Day."
As this paper will demonstrate, plenty of research exists to show that matching voter data with other government databases -- though required by HAVA -- is an unreliable, error-laden process, and that conditioning the right to vote on such a flawed system will inevitably disenfranchise eligible citizens. HAVA's verification provisions were put into place to improve state database management and facilitate accurate record keeping. These provisions were written to ensure that every voter's registration record has a unique number associated with it to allow states to easily identify duplicate registration records with greater confidence and determine and eliminate voters no longer eligible to vote in that jurisdiction.2 As the legislative history points out, it was not HAVA's intent in requiring
a match to disenfranchise those otherwise eligible applicants whose data does not match exactly. Therefore, in order to comply with federal law while maintaining the rights of its citizens to vote, states should follow the best practices discussed below.