enacted the National
Voter Registration Act of 1993 (also known by the acronym NVRA, or,
alternatively, as the “Motor Voter Act”) to make it “easier
for all Americans to register to vote and to maintain their
registration.” Effective in most states as of January 1,
1995, this legislation applied to 44 states and the District of Columbia. Six states -- Idaho, Minnesota, New Hampshire, North Dakota, Wisconsin, and
Wyoming -- were exempt from the NVRA's provisions because those states either had no voter-registration requirements or
they offered opportunities for election-day registration at polling places.
states to provide people with an opportunity to submit
voter-registration applications for federal (i.e., House, Senate, and Presidential) elections by three
- by registering to vote at the
same time that they apply for, or seek to renew, a
driver's license (hence the name “motor voter”);
- by submitting their voter-registration applications by mail,
using forms developed jointly by each state and the Election Assistance
- by requiring states to offer voter-registration
opportunities at all offices that provide public assistance of any kind.
NVRA explicitly requires
each state to keep its voter-registration rolls accurate and current
– and to remove voters' names from those lists when they (the voters) have
either been convicted of a disqualifying crime, been adjudged mentally
incapacitated, moved to another state, or died. But in practice, the lists contain many names of
people who are legally ineligible to vote and who are simply fictitious ("Mickey Mouse," etc.).
Such abuses occur because under
the Act's provisions:
the NVRA makes it quite difficult to purge "deadwood"
voters (those who have died or moved away) from the rolls. This
the potential for, and the incidence of, election fraud. In
1999, for instance, CBS's 60
aired a report about Californians who had used mail-in forms to
register fictitious people, deceased people, or pets, and who then
obtained absentee ballots in the names of those "registrants." As a result of such
chicanery, the voter rolls in many American cities
– in such states as South Dakota, Texas, Mississippi, Kentucky,
Indiana, West Virginia, Maryland, Iowa, North Carolina, and Missouri
– soon included more names than there were residents of voting age in those locales.
people register by mail they are not required to provide any form of
people register in person at a Department of Motor Vehicles or a
Social Services office, the government workers who handle their
cases are not permitted to challenge their applications.
of all people who register via Motor Voter provisions ultimately
bother to go to the polls on election day – coupled with the fact
that most states do not require photo IDs at polling booths –
means that the NVRA has made it much easier for people to
vote in someone else's name, whether in person or by absentee ballot. A single individual can easily vote under other people's names multiple
times if he or she wishes.
In June 2011, a Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey found that 75% of likely U.S. voters said that voters should be required to show photo identification before being allowed to cast their ballots. This included 85% of Republicans,
77% of voters not affiliated with either major party, and 63% of
Democrats. Support for such a law was high across virtually all demographic groups. Just 18% of respondents opposed the requirement.