Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Why you should check your Voter Registration at My Vote WA today...

A voter registration list contains a number of fields that give information about the voter and their voting history.  One record is your unique registration number. When I query those registration numbers for changes I find that Whatcom County is averaging about five thousand simultaneous additions and deletions for each of the last two years. This "voter churn" is significant. We have about 126K registered voters currently. By such a measure our yearly rate of "churn" or "turnover" is ~4%.

The state of WA is an ERIC state. For our county, this means an examination of the voter database that results in a 'cleansing' of the voter list is done each quarter at the state level.  However, all processes can be flawed which is why I recommend logging on to My Vote WA and checking that your ID is valid, that your address is up to date (otherwise how are you going to receive your ballot by mail?) and that your voting history is correct.  To do this you simply need your name and birth date.

Your voter ID information is not secured by WA State. Anyone with your full name and your birth date can log into your voting history at My Vote WA. And although this provides the state with a security problem, it is also a helpful feature.  Like it or not, not everyone has a computer or smart phone. Many of us have parents or grandparents who probably still do not own a computer, which would make it more difficult for them to manage and monitor their voter ID. As a helpful son, daughter, relative, caretaker; you could do this for them with their permission.

The problem with not regularly checking your voter database information is that you may not know something is wrong until you fail to receive a ballot, in which case:

  • your ballot may have been sent to the wrong address
  • you may have already been de-registered
  • you may now have a complicated process to file a (possibly contested) ballot as a "provincial voter"

Is there any evidence that such eventualities do happen? Is there any evidence that the "ERIC" or other voter roll purging efforts have cut too deep? I am still researching this question. However, in examining the voter database, I have found some examples of voters with consistent voting records going back at least five years who have recently  re-registered under a newer voter registration number. It is somewhat unusual to see this phenomena in the voting records.  Voting registration numbers are assigned numerically, usually consistent with the registration year, and they are usually kept by an individual for the length of their residence in Whatcom County. Finding a group of voters that have voted in each of the last five primaries, but whom suddenly re-registered under a newer voter id in the last ten months could indicate that they were:

  • cut from the  voter database
  • realized they were cut
  • and then were forced to re-register under a newer registration number.

It could also indicate that there are many more who simply stopped receiving a ballot and didn't bother to do anything about it. The county itself does some quality analysis of 'ERIC' efforts and has some processes in place to clean its voter database. However, I have pored over and run some tests on the Whatcom voter database and found errors in the past. My favorite test is the one that finds voters who registered to vote before their birth dates. I call these voters "time travelers" and most of those discrepancies are due to clerical errors.

The last day to register for an important primary this is July 7th. Whether you have been receiving your ballot and/or voting successfully or not in the past, everyone should log on sometime before the July 7th date and make sure all of your information is up to date. The Whatcom County elections home page is here.  It contains contact information if you feel you need help.  The elections desk of  the Whatcom County Auditor is inside the Court House.  The staff is generally very helpful.

I recommend that you don't delay checking the My Vote WA. Do this for yourself today! If necessary (and with permission I would guess), do this for those you care for whom can not do this for themselves.

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