We’re only months into the 2019 election, but there have already been promising developments to fix our nation’s elections system and make it easier to register to vote. According to new research by the Pew Charitable Trusts, online voter registration provides great benefits for voters and election workers alike.

A basic tenet of democracy is the right of the people to elect the government under which they will live, or, as Abraham Lincoln so eloquently put it, a “government of the people, by the people, for the people.” The ability to hold fair and safe elections is critical to a democracy’s existence. We consider a state’s ability to engage in a peaceful transfer of power via election as a primary measure of that state’s standing as a democratic government.

Are People Ready to Change from the Norm?

One question we must consider is, are people willing to change their affiliation? Even with the lowered barrier to access, if people feel wedded to their party, for better or for worse, they may not take advantage of this new avenue of communication.

Online voter registration follows essentially the same process, but instead of filling out a paper application, the voter fills out a form via an Internet site, and that paperless form is submitted electronically to election officials. In most states the application is reviewed electronically; if the request is confirmed to be valid, the new registration is added to the state’s voter registration list.

Online voter registration systems supplement the traditional paper-based process, by which new voters fill out a paper form that is submitted to election officials, who confirm the registration is valid, and enter the information from the paper application into the registration system.

While these early results would indicate that online voter registration in U.S.A for example is succeeding in obtaining the desired increase in voter registration, we propose that there might be a secondary, unintended effect that has arguably more potential for promoting democratic participation. With online voter registration, citizens will be able to easily access and modify their registration data, including party affiliation. As with anything else, once the barrier to an action is lowered, one can expect to see an increase in that action.

What Can Be Done?

One way to increase the accessibility of online voter registration is to utilize existing technology to capture and accept an electronic version of the registrant’s signature. This option would enable voters both to register online and provide a signature to complete the registration process instantaneously. In addition, the use of mobile devices like tablets and smartphones would not only directly increase voting access, but it would also enable organizations that conduct voter registration drives, like the League, to incorporate mobile devices into their efforts and help mitigate the problem of uneven access to computers and the Internet.



Article by: Busayo Tomoh

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