ICYMI: Sam Oliker-Friedland & Doug Hess: ‘The National Voter Registration Act is acting far below its potential’
For Immediate Release:
July 10, 2023
WASHINGTON — This past Saturday, The Hill published an opinion piece by Sam Oliker Friedland, executive director of the Institute for Responsive Government, and Doug Hess, Ph.D., expert on the National Voter Registration Act (NVRA). This year marks the 30th anniversary of the NVRA, and in the op-ed, the authors write that the “NVRA is performing far below its potential.” As some states fail to comply with Section 7 of the Act, the NVRA needs sustained attention from elected officials to ensure compliance. But, the authors propose another means of strengthening the NVRA: using Medicaid data.
By applying optimal automatic voter registration (AVR) practices to Medicaid, this solution would offer “a promising way to both increase client response and improve state noncompliance with the NVRA in a program of serving tens of millions of adult citizens,” helping reach a demographic of eligible voters that often go unregistered. As Oliker-Friedland and Hess write, “now is the time to make good on the promise of the NVRA and empower every eligible voter to register, cast a ballot and make their voice heard.”
- “[T]he NVRA strengthened voting rights by prohibiting several needlessly restrictive state registration policies and expanding opportunities for citizens to register. Sadly, after three decades, the NVRA is performing far below its potential.”
- “Absent action by officials, bureaucratic or elected, and with or without prodding by voting rights advocates, millions of citizens will be denied registration opportunities between now and the next presidential election. Moreover, because half of voter registration applications update existing registration records, allowing the NVRA to fail means the rolls become littered with inaccuracies.”
- “One reason for these persistent disparities and errors is that states frequently fail to offer voter registration services to their citizens as required in the NVRA. Indeed, in its final report, the 2014 Presidential Commission on Election Administration referred to the NVRA as ‘the election statute most often ignored.’”
- “A shockingly widespread form of noncompliance has been the failure of states to offer voter registration services through health and human services programs, such as Medicaid and SNAP, as required in Section 7 of the NVRA.”
- “[C]ivic organizations, Congress, the Justice Department, state officials and legislators must provide the NVRA with sustained attention to ensure that states comply with the act’s voter registration programs.”
- “[S]everal states are exploring how automatic voter registration (AVR) policies in motor voter programs, which more than 20 states have adopted, could be used in Medicaid agencies. Essentially, if Medicaid applicants provide information sufficient for registering or updating an existing registration, their citizenship is confirmed via the Federal Data Services Hub.”
- “By addressing deficiencies in the design of Section 7, applying optimal AVR practices to Medicaid offers a promising way to both increase client response and improve state noncompliance with the NVRA in a program serving tens of millions of adult citizens. Thirty years after its passage, now is the time to make good on the promise of the NVRA and empower every eligible voter to register, cast a ballot and make their voice heard.”
The Institute for Responsive Government is a nonpartisan nonprofit dedicated to ensuring state and federal governments work effectively for the very people they serve. IRG provides data, research and expertise to elected officials in order to find practical policy solutions that make government systems more efficient, accessible, and responsive.