In the past month, four states have taken a step to improve access to the polls. Voters in Pennsylvania and Nebraska can now register to vote online, while Iowa and Kentucky will have online voter registration systems by early 2016. All four states join the fast growing list of over 23 states plus the District of Columbia that offer online voter registration. Online voter registration is a critical step to bringing our voting systems into the 21st century. With an increasingly mobile society, it is critical that these systems are available to all eligible voters.
While the League praises these states for taking a big step forward, they require the individual registering online to have a specific form of state ID with a signature on file with the state. This requirement is simply not necessary and means a significant portion of the eligible voting population is left behind. Data from the Brennan Center clearly shows that acquiring a state issued ID can be a burden on some citizens, especially low-income individuals, minorities, students and the elderly. Across the country millions of eligible voters are not able to access systems with such rules in place. The League is committed to ensuring that every eligible voter can register and update their registration through online systems, not just those with a driver’s license or non-driver photo ID and signature on file with the state.
Since launching their website at the end of August, Pennsylvania has seen over 11,000 people register online – including nearly 1,300 in the first two days alone. The League of Women Voters of Pennsylvania and coalition partners worked with the Secretary of State’s office to create the online system, rather than go through the legislative process. Pennsylvania League President Susan Carty was present at the administration’s press conference in August announcing the official launch (pictured). The League is hopeful that online voter registration will be a stepping stone to further pro-voter reforms and election modernizations across the state.
Nebraska passed online voter registration earlier this year after two failed attempts to get the bill through the legislature in 2011 and 2013. Initially it was unclear when the system would be rolled out though, and the League of Women Voters of Nebraska urged the state to create and finalize the online system before the end of this year. The site went live just in time for National Voter Registration Day on September 22.
Iowa approved an online voter registration system in 2015, and after a state Senate committee reviewed the implementation process earlier this year after legislation was introduced, Iowa announced that their online voter registration system will begin on January 1, 2016. The League of Women Voters of Iowa advocated for online voter registration citing the benefits for both voters and election officials.
Similar to Pennsylvania, Kentucky’s Secretary of State announced last week that Kentucky will have online voter registrations by early 2016. With the presidential election next year, it is critical to have online registration in place early so that voters in the state can take full advantage of the new and easy way to register to vote.
Our next step is to ensure all systems across the country are access to every eligible voter. And the solution is really a simple one, collect a signature at the polls on Election Day for those voters without a drivers’ license or non-driver ID and signature on file with the state.