The federal 2002 Help America Vote Act (HAVA) required states to develop and implement computerized statewide voter databases and to coordinate them with other government databases by January 1, 2006. In addition, states were required to give each voter a unique identifier and voter registration applicants were required to provide either their driver’s license number or their Social Security number. These requirements were put in place to ensure that states maintain accurate and complete lists of registered voters. HAVA also required first-time voters to show identification before voting. This ID requirement is waived when the state is able to “match” the applicant’s driver’s license or Social Security number to the corresponding government database and thereby confirm the applicant’s identity.
Several states went beyond the HAVA requirement and implemented “No Match, No Vote” policies. Under such policies, if the state was unable to match the information on the voter registration application with information in another government database, the application was denied outright. The result was that “No Match, No Vote” policies had the potential to disenfranchise thousands of voters. This is exactly what happened in Pennsylvania.
Many failures to match information on a voter registration application with another database are due to errors in the database itself. Database entry errors such as transposed names, typographical errors, or failure to include a suffix such as “Jr.” or “Sr.” can, and frequently do, cause a “No Match.” In some cases, categories differ from one database to another. Poorly designed matching programs also cause matching failures. While some states adopt flexible “substantial match” systems to adjust for database errors, others demand an exact match, thereby inevitably disenfranchising eligible voters.
Advocacy by several organizations has led most of the states with "no match, no vote" policies to reverse course.