Voter List Basics
Before understanding the challenges of maintaining an accurate voter list it is first helpful to know what a voter list is and how it is used. When you register to vote the information you entered on the form is entered into a database maintained by our office and the California Secretary of State. This data identifies you as a qualified voter, eligible to vote in any countywide election or local election. Pursuant to California Elections Code section 2102(c), voters certify that they are eligible to vote by truthfully completing an affidavit of voter registration and signing the form under penalty of perjury.
In order to register to vote, a person must:
- Be a citizen of the United States;
- Be a resident of California;
- Be at least 18 years of age as of the day of the next election;
- Not be in prison for the conviction of a felony; and
- Not be deemed by an appropriate court to be mentally incompetent.
While the Registrar of Voters is not an investigatory, regulatory or enforcement agency, we take any evidence of voter registration fraud very seriously. If we are presented with evidence from a third-party that a registered voter does not meet the eligibility requirements to vote, we will refer the information to the District Attorney and/or the Secretary of State for investigation and possible criminal prosecution.
Challenges of Maintaining Accurate Voter Lists
The vast majority of individuals that move notify their banks, car lenders, family and friends – even magazine subscriptions before they change their voter registration. During the past few years we have focused on making improvements to the process of maintaining our voter registration list. Unique to Orange County is our use of additional data from secure, highly reliable sources – allowing us to notify voters and update their records – long before they think about notifying us. This keeps us on the cutting edge of making sure the voter list is as accurate as possible - even if voters do not notify us of their movements. Because of these efforts we have one of the most accurate lists in the country.
It is important to note that despite these innovative efforts we continue to "chase" down voter addresses as opposed to voters proactively notifying our office.
Detailed Information on Our Innovative List Maintenance
Since 2006 we have made improvements to the process of the maintenance of the voter registration list. The use of secure third-party data improves our ability to find voters who have possibly moved. The advantage of this data is that it uses nationwide data, and can catch people not caught by the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV), National Change of Address (NCOA), and Secretary of State updates.
Prior to utilizing this one-of-a-kind method in elections we conducted a detailed test of the data. In our test mailing, we had a better response from the voters who had been provided an address through secure third-party data than we had from mailing to voters using their address on the voter registration list. We also found a large group of voters who had not voted in at least eight elections moved between three and eight times in just a few years.
Additional Proactive Efforts to Keep Our Voter List Accurate
No more than 90 days before a major election, we update our voter records using National Change of Address (NCOA) records. The entire voter list is compared to the National Change of Address database, and voters' addresses are updated accordingly. This includes voters who have moved within Orange County, as well as outside of Orange County. A postcard is sent to each affected voter for verification. This process will typically update over 30,000 voter records. However, this data is only useful if the voter fills out a change of address card through the post office. Did you receive one of our post cards? Be sure to mail it back today!
Undeliverable mail, such as vote-by-mail ballots, is used to update the voter registration database. If a new address is provided, our database is updated accordingly, and a postcard is sent to the new address in an attempt to contact the voter. If the new address is outside the State of California or a forwarding address is not provided, the voter’s registration is made inactive, and the postcard notifies the voter that the registration could be cancelled. Inactive voters are not mailed a ballot. In order for an inactive voter to re-activate their registration in order to vote in an election, they must confirm or update the registration information.
Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) Records Address updates are provided daily by the DMV, and immediately applied by our office. This now happens on a statewide level.
Voters Moving Out of Orange County
Our office is notified by the Secretary of State's office of voters who have re-registered in other counties. These registrations are cancelled in Orange County by our office upon notification. We are also notified directly by other counties if a voter has re-registered. If the county is within California, the voter will be re-registered in the new county.
We exceed State requirements for canceling deceased voters. In addition to the records provided by the Orange County Health Care Agency (HCA) and the Secretary of State, we also check local obituaries on a daily basis. In addition we research the death record of a voter if someone notifies our office, even if it is simply by phone or email. We utilize the Social Security Death Index (SSDI) to conduct this research, and HCA works with our office to verify deceased individuals. Unique to Orange County we also use third-party data that compares a list of voters on our database to the SSDI. The unique advantage of this service is that it uses nationwide and historical data. The nationwide data component is something that has been missing in the past. During our launch of this service we canceled nearly 1,100 additional voters using this process, most of which were not caught using the other processes.
Canceling Inactive Voters
A voter is placed in an inactive status if we have been notified by the USPS through undeliverable mail that a voter has moved out of State, or have their mail returned as undeliverable with no forwarding address provided. We mail a postcard to all inactive voters, and if they return a signed postcard confirming they moved out of State, they are canceled immediately. If they do not respond to the postcard, do not vote, or do not confirm their registration, an inactive voter is removed from the voter list and canceled if two federal general elections have passed since the postcard was sent. Federal general elections are held in November of each year ending in an even number.