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Voter Registration: Recent Developments and Issues for Congress

CRS Report – Voter Registration: Recent Developments and Issues for Congress, September 19, 2022: “Voter registration policies are typically determined by state and local governments, subject to certain federal requirements. Historically, much of thefederalpolicy discussion surrounding voter registration has focused on providing access to registration opportunities. Some federal statutes that primarily address preserving voting access for certain constituencies also include provisions that address voter registration, such as the Voting Rights Act of 1965 (VRA), theVoting Accessibility for the Elderly and Handicapped Act of 1984 (VAEHA), and the Uniformed and Overseas Citizens Absentee Voting Act of 1986 (UOCAVA). The National Voter Registration Act of 1993 (NVRA) expanded registration opportunities by creating a federal mail-based registration form and requiring states to provide voter registration opportunities alongside services provided by departments of motor vehicles (DMVs) and at other agencies. NVRA remains a fundamental component of federal voter registration policy and contains a number of other provisions affecting voter registration administration. Other key elements of NVRA relate to processes used for voter list maintenance or removing voters from the registration list.The Help America Vote Act of 2002 (HAVA), a broader election administration statute, also addresses voter registration. HAVA required states to create a computerized, centralized, statewide voter registration list and introduced revisions to the NVRA mail-based voter registration form, among other provisions. State officials retain the ability to determine a variety of aspects of their voter registration systems. For example, state registration deadlines for federal elections cannot be more than 30 days before an election under NVRA, but states may set deadlines closer to Election Day or allow same-day voter registration. A number of states have automatic voter registration policies, where data from individuals transacting business with certain agencies are automatically shared with state election officials to facilitate new or updated voter registration records….Voter registration system policies are also discussed in the context of election security, particularly following evidence that foreign actors attempted to access or accessed voter registration systems in some states prior to the 2016 election. During the 117th Congress to date, more than 50 bills have been introduced that address some element of federal voter registration. Some of these are standalone bills that solely address voter registration, and some of these are broader election administration or election security bills that contain specific provisions related to voter registration. Many view congressional activity related to voter registration as an extension of the federal government’s role in upholding the constitutional right to vote and ensuring the integrity of election processes. As a prerequisite to voting in each state but North Dakota, which does not require voter registration, voter registration policies, broadly, can help prevent ineligible individuals from voting or prevent eligible voters from voting multiple times in an election. Certain voter registration measures, however, may be viewed as barriers that inhibit otherwise eligible individuals from being able to vote. Some may question whether further expanding the federal role in voter registration is necessary, given existing federal and state practices. Imposing uniform standards across states could also present challenges because of the decentralized nature of U.S. election administration and the variety of election practices currently in place under state laws. Other measures addressing election administration or elements of election integrity, unrelated to voter registration, may also be a legislative priority…”

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