Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Voter Registration Records

Many counties and municipalities maintain voter registration records for extended periods of time. While censuses were taken every ten years, a voter registration card or registration roll may provide a verification in those years in between to help you verify that your ancestor may have been in an area.

It is helpful to do a little preliminary research into the voting laws for the locale at the time. If your ancestor was on a voter roll and the voter residency requirement at the time was one year, that knowledge can verify that your ancestor was in a location for at least that long. By the same token, if a decennial census record shows your ancestor at a location and not on the voter roll, it could indicate that he may have been a newer arrival and had not been there long enough to meet the residency requirement. Some voter registration lists may include the year of naturalization for immigrants. This can be invaluable for narrowing the time period for locating naturalization documents.

Page from the "List of Registered Voters in the City of New York, For the Year 1880"
collection at 

An individual's voter registration card might be found among the papers in their home or in the possession of a descendant. If it is dated, it can be a clue to contacting the appropriate board of elections or other county agency to locate the original application or the collection of all election years' rolls.
Voter registration card from Luzerne County, Pennsylvania

In more recent times, Congress enacted the National Voter Registration Act of 1993 (also known as the "NVRA" and the "Motor Voter Act"), to enhance voting opportunities for every American. The Act has made it easier for all Americans to register to vote and to maintain their registration. As a result, a state-issued driver's license or identity card, and its issue date, may point to state voter registration documents.

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