Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Online voter registration

Last week I was at a round-table to talk about various election reform ideas for 2010.

When online voter registration was first brought up, it was put into the "Not Like" column on the white board. I chalked this up to a generational gap. But then, one by one, young and old, more participants went up to the board and put little "checks" next to online voter registration, indicating their agreement that this is not a worthwhile reform to pursue. Some indicated a fear that the Internet was "not safe" for online registration.

Why the hate?

Online registration is easy, popular and has the potential to increase the number of registered voters. A new report from Pew shows how, in Arizona and Washington, implementing online voter registration was far less costly than paper registration, increased accuracy of voter lists by matching with DMV databases and reducing data entry error, made the process far more efficient for election officials and was easy to use.

Moreover, online voter registration has the makings of a nationwide movement, with Kansas and Oregon joining Washington and Arizona in implementing the system since the 2008 election, and with at least 4 more states currently in the planning stages of implementation (Pew). Just this week, Colorado Secretary of State Bernie Buescher unveiled the state's new online voter registration system, which lets residents with a driver's license or DOR-issued state ID register to vote online.

Granted, the reach of this reform is limited. For the most part, only those who already hold driver's licenses or other state IDs are able to participate in online registration, which tends to miss the non-drivers, new residents and more mobile voters. Nevertheless - and speaking as a young voter - if we can feel OK giving our info to online retailers, and Facebook, why can't we support the idea of registering to vote online?
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