WASHINGTON — QUESTION:
Is it legal to be registered in multiple states? If so, how does this happen, and what are states doing to fix this?
It is not a crime to be registered in multiple states. This typically happens when someone moves without informing their previous state. States regularly 'clean their rolls,' and when this happens, one will be removed from their past state.
Voting in multiple states, however, is a felony -- punishable by jail time and fines.
Sophia Lin Lakin, Deputy Director of the Voter Rights Project at ACLU
Raul Macias, Counsel For Democracy Project at The Brennan Center For Justice
David Becker, Executive Director and Founder of The Center For Election Innovation and Research
PEW Report, 2012 - "Evidence That America's Voter Registration System Needs An Upgrade"
The VERIFY Team was contacted by a Maryland resident, who realized that she was not only registered to vote in her home state, but also in her former state of residence, Pennsylvania. Many people online reported the same issue, and wanted to know if this 'double registration' was legal.
To learn more about how this happens, the VERIFY Team reached out to a trio of voting rights experts. Raul Macias, counsel for the 'Democracy Project' at the Brennan Center For Justice said this typically happens when someone moves states.
"Somebody could be registered in a state," he said. "And then they move to a new state, and re-register in that new state. It’s pretty common.”
Exact data on this subject is difficult to find. However, a PEW Report from 2012 found that at this time in the election process, there were roughly 2.75 million people registered in multiple states.
"That in itself not illegal," Sophia Lin Lakin from the ACLU's Voter Rights Project said.
Lin Lakin said that it often takes time for the former state to realize one has moved, unless the person informs the authorities about their move.
“It won’t necessarily happen right away," she said. "So in that period of time, until you get kicked off of your former state’s roles, you are registered to vote in two places.”
Maintaining the voter rolls can be difficult because elections are not run on the federal level, but instead by the individual states. The states often need to compare voter rolls to find people who are double registered.
Even after finding name repetition, the states must confirm that this is the same person in two states, rather than two people sharing a name. Election officials won’t take someone off the registered voter list in their state until they are sure this person has moved.
David Becker has been working to simplify this process. In 2012, he founded the Electronic Registration Information Center, often referred to as ERIC.
Thirty states and the District of Columbia use the system. Every 60 to 90 days, the participating states upload their voter rolls to computer software. It will then combine the information from these voter rolls with data from the DMV, USPS, and The Social Security Administration.
“There’s going to need to be multiple data points that match," Becker said. "It could be Social (Security Number), It could be driver's license number, it could be an email address. In addition to my name and other information.”
If there is a match, ERIC will inform the states, so they can start investigating whether someone moved.
“It will help get people registered," said Becker. "Where they’ve just moved to. And it will help the state they just moved from begin the process of cleaning up their list.”
Those registered around the D.C. Metro region can track their mail-in ballots.
So we can Verify that wile being registered in multiple states is legal, double voting is absolutely illegal. Double voting is a felony.