A Pew report says outdated voting systems are leading to errors in voter registrations, feeding perceptions that U.S. elections are not as airtight as they could be.

Share story

OLYMPIA — Some 24 million voter registrations in the United States contain significant errors, including about 1.8 million dead people still on the rolls and many more approved to vote in multiple states, according to a report released Tuesday.

Even though the inaccuracies impact one in eight registrations, researches at the Pew Center on the States said they don’t see it as an indicator of widespread fraud. Rather, they believe outdated systems are failing to keep pace with the most basic changes in people’s lives, feeding perceptions that U.S. elections are not as airtight as they could be.

In conjunction with Pew’s report, eight states said they are working this year on a centralized-data system to help identify people whose registrations may be out of date.

“A lot of people probably assume we do this already,” said Sam Reed, who oversees elections as Washington’s secretary of state. “I think it’s going to bring more trust and confidence in the election system.”

About 2.7 million people have active registrations in multiple states, including about 2,000 people registered in four or more states, according to the Pew report. Elections officials said it is difficult to track when people have moved to another state without canceling their previous registration.

Some 1.8 million deceased people are listed as active voters, according to the study, which is based on a computer analysis of a proprietary voter database used by Democrats.

Researchers believe 12.7 million records do not reflect the current addresses of active voters, while 12 million contain address inaccuracies, including those that make it unlikely that mail could reach them.

Some of the files contain multiple problems, with Pew estimating that a total of 24 million have problems.

The numbers are at least partially supported by anecdotal evidence. For example, Washington and Alaska — one of the nation’s least populous states — compared each other’s voter-registration systems last year and found an estimated 4,500 duplicates.

The eight states involved in the centralization project are Colorado, Delaware, Maryland, Nevada, Oregon, Utah, Virginia and Washington.

Pew believes the centralized system and online voter registrations will help save money by eliminating the need to print millions of forms, enter data by hand or send mail to outdated or incorrect addresses.

“That’s a tremendous cost to the taxpayers,” said David Becker, director of Election Initiatives at the Pew Center on the States. The centralized system has not settled on participation fees yet but is expected to be in the tens of thousands of dollars per state per year.