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Make Voter Data Hygiene An Election Priority

(Editor’s Note: This article is from Melissa, provider of address verification and update software and services. Click for more information.)

COVID-19 has already made history. It has impacted areas of life that will affect us for years to come. As developments continue to surface, immediate action is required now to minimize its disruption of the 2020 election.

Those involved in the upcoming election have the unique and challenging responsibility to ensure voter safety while maintaining voter participation, which is causing more states and counties to look at expanding mail-in voting.

To be successful, this transition requires accurate voter registration lists. It is required to minimize the costs of mailing ballots, reduce undeliverable-as-addressed (UAA) mail, and assure validation postcards are received at the current address.

However, maintaining an accurate voter registration list can be challenging. Voter address data goes stale by 25-30 percent yearly. The main cause for this data decay is people moving – more than 31 million Americans moved in 2019 with 11 million moving to a different county and 4 million moving out of state.

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Other culprits include some 12 million voter records containing an incorrect address, millions of citizens registered to vote in more than one state, and deceased individuals the remain listed as voters.

Add to the challenge the difficulty in matching individual records corresponding to the same individual in the voter list. Correct identification can be problematic because of many factors including: the absence of standards for the recording of names, misspellings within names, AKAs and nickname use, variance in birthdates presented and transcription errors in the SSN and use of one SSN by multiple family members. 83,000 duplicate voter registrations were found in a 2019 California audit alone.

The resulting inaccuracies in the voter list result in undeliverable mail. In fact, the USPS processed over 6 billion UAA mail pieces in 2019 that cost mailers upwards of $20 billion dollars – so the problem is real and really expensive.

Thankfully, there are easy to implement data hygiene processes that can help election officials achieve and maintain a clean, current and correct voter list. Vendors can verify and standardize your address data using a USPS CASS Certified address matching engine. National Change of Address processing can identify voters that have informed the USPS of their move over the last 48 months.

Proprietary change of address services uses multiple sources like magazine subscriptions, credit card, and utility companies to identify moves from the 40% of movers that never file a change of address notification with the USPS. There are data appending services that can add missing names, emails, phones, date of birth and date of death to records, and advanced fuzzy matching solutions that can identify, merge and purge duplicate voter records.

Good data will make all the difference in assuring a safe, efficient and voter-centric 2020 election. Understanding the types of data hygiene services available to clean and update a voter registration list is critical to laying the groundwork for a more cost-effective voting process that keeps voters safe while improving their voting experience.

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