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Vital Records Role in Restoring Voters Trust


By Anthony Stout, Manager of EVVE Products & Services for NAPHSIS

The 2016 general election is just one week away, and if you have been following the presidential campaign coverage over the last few weeks, you likely have heard Donald Trump's allegations that this year's election is "rigged." The presidential nominee has pointed to several theories on how his opposition may affect the outcome of the election—individuals voting in multiple states or multiple times in the same state. NAPHSIS is in no position to validate these claims, but one that does hold water is the number of deceased Americans who remain on voter registration rosters despite their obvious inability to cast a ballot.

Current systems for updating voter registrations following a death vary widely from state to state, and rely on a hodgepodge of reporting systems to remove deceased voters from the rolls. Some states rely on the Social Security Administration's "Death Master File"—which has been widely documented as inaccurate and inconsistent—to identify voters who have passed. Other states rely on reporting from next of kin and funeral homes—also often unreliable—and some election registrars even use inactivity to remove registered voters from the list. Some states turn to their own vital records offices to verify deaths. While these records are accurate and complete for individuals who have died in that state, they may not account for state residents who have died out of state. The result: many of these methods fail in removing dead voters from the rolls. For example, Maryland found as many as 20,000 dead voters in their registers in 2013.[1]

We've heard no widespread reports of "zombie voters," but the potential for voting under a false identity is left open when these former voters remain registered. When living citizens are mistaken for dead and removed from voter registration rolls erroneously, their civil liberties are infringed. While these rare cases are unlikely to swing an election in one direction or another, their mere existence contributes to an erosion of trust in the validity of our elections, our electoral system, and our democracy itself.

Fortunately, this does not need to be the case.

For 28 states and counting, there is a better way for removing deceased voters from registration lists. That way is through EVVE--the Electronic Verification of Vital Events System. EVVE, operated by NAPHSIS, provides users with the ability to quickly, reliably, and securely verify and certify birth and death information across state lines. Electronic inquiries from authorized users can be matched against over 250 million birth and death records from the vital records jurisdictions nationwide. An electronic response from the state or jurisdiction either verifies or denies a match within matter of seconds, allowing election officials to quickly, accurately, and securely compare their voter registration records with death records across the nation.

No other system on the market provides more complete access to original vital records than EVVE, and none is a more accurate and complete verification of fact of death. As more and more vital records jurisdictions come online with EVVE, the system will have the capacity to provide services to all electoral jurisdictions to aid them in cleaning their voter lists come election time. So, while NAPHSIS may not be able to fix all of your election year woes, it can certainly help election boards calm speculations that zombies will be casting votes. Don't forget to vote November 8!

For more information about EVVE, please contact Anthony Stout at astout@naphsis.org or 301.563.6005.

[1] http://marylandreporter.com/2014/03/18/dead-voters-would-be-removed-from-voter-rolls-faster/


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