On Anniversary of Death of Martin Luther King, Jr., Civil Rights Leaders Call on New Yorkers to Increase Participation in Elections
Posted by ted Mukamal on
In 2014 you can pay your bills, file your taxes, and renew your driver’s license online, so why not register to vote online too?
In many states, moving registered voters are expected to show up in person to unregister to vote at their old address, register to vote at their new address, and then unregister if they move again. Unsurprisingly, 12 million voter records have incorrect addresses, and 2.75 Americans are registered to vote in multiple states. Between family and work alone, it’s easy to understand why so many Americans can’t find the time to register, reregister, and unregister in person. However, we can’t just ignore the fact that voter roles across the country are riddled with errors. Online registration would make it easy for voters to ensure that their voter registration data was accurate and up-to-date. All it would take is five minutes filling out a form online, perhaps encouraged by a gentle email reminder.
Online registration isn’t just practical for soon-to-be voters, it also saves taxpayer’s money. California saved $2.34 on every registration that was filed online, and Arizona’s online registration system saved them $1.4 million between 2008 and 2012. In states without online registration, every single voter registration has to be typed into a digital database by a government clerk, but online registration takes out the middleman.
19 states have already implemented online registration. Should the Federal Government work with states to make this universal? Or should we go follow in North Dakota’s footsteps and go even further?
How can we increase voter participation, prevent fraud, and reduce costs, all at the same time? Automatically register people to vote on their 18th birthdays (or when they become naturalized), and automatically re-register voters whenever they file a change of address at the post office, DMV, or other government offices.
Voter registration across the country is stuck in the 19th century, when paper was the height of database technology, mail was the only way for government agencies to communicate, and people only rarely moved out of their hometowns. Currently, a quarter of voters mistakenly believe that the post office automatically updates their voter registration when they file a change of address, which is one explanation for the 2.75 million people that are registered to vote in multiple states and the 12 million voter records that have incorrect addresses.
Even these ubiquitous and egregious errors in the voter roles seem insignificant when you realize that almost 25% of Americans never registered to vote in the first place. The tragedy is that in 2014, voter registration could easily be automated by linking the Social Security, IRS, or even DMV databases with local voter roles. If an 18 year old or a naturalized citizen is automatically registered to vote, they’ve got one less excuse to not exercise their civic duty.
And why can’t the Post Office just automatically update somebody’s voter registration when they move? Voter databases would constantly be up to date, and you’d save yourself a trip to City Hall.
Some have raised concerns that automatically registering voters could lead to non-citizens voting, infringe on individuals’ privacy, and be costly to implement. However, these concerns can be mitigated if the system is properly implemented.
The current system involves individuals filling out a paper form, third parties collecting those forms, and government clerks having to manually input hundreds of forms during the height of election season. With automatic registration, there’s almost no room for human error, less work for busy local governments, and nobody’s registered in multiple places.
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