It's time for NC to join the growing trend of online voter registration
A majority of states have adopted online voter registration, which has proven to be secure, accurate and convenient – while providing big cost savings.
RALEIGH – North Carolina is a hub of companies on the cutting edge of digital technology, but the state still lags behind the rest of the nation when it comes to applying that technology to key aspects of our voting process.
The Tar Heel State has made some moves toward modernization, however. Last year, the state DMV launched a new system allowing residents to securely update their voter registration online when making changes to their driver’s licenses and other DMV records.
– Sherrie Swensen, Salt Lake County (UT) clerk quoted in a Pew study about online voter registration
Allowing voters who are already registered to use online tools to make updates to their registration is a positive step for North Carolina. The next step would be to join the majority of states that now allow citizens to register to vote online.
Currently, a North Carolina resident who is registering to vote would need to complete a paper registration form and mail it to their county board of elections office. However, in an era when many people routinely shop, renew their drivers licence and securely bank online, allowing residents to skip filling out a paper form and instead register to vote via the web makes sense.
Online voter registration is hardly a new concept. Arizona was the first to launch an online registration system in 2002, followed by Washington in 2008 and Kansas in 2009, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL). Today, 34 states and the District of Columbia allow online voter registration.
The implementation of online registration has led to cost savings for state governments and taxpayers. Arizona saw a dramatic reduction in processing costs from the 83 cents per paper registration to just 3 cents per online registration. And setting up an online registration system is relatively inexpensive. According to a Pew study, costs incurred by states implementing online voter registration were typically no more than $300,000 and often less than $100,000.
While some lawmakers may have concerns about the security of online registration, NCSL reports that in the 15 years since online voter registration first came onto the national scene, there have been no breaches known to date. That's thanks to systems designed with such safety features as data encryption and "captcha" boxes where registrants must decode images that a computer cannot, along with requiring registrants to provide the last four digits of their Social Security number or their drivers license number.
Pew's survey of election officials in states with online registration found broad satisfaction with the move to the digital realm. Case in point is the comment from Sherrie Swensen, a clerk in Salt Lake County, Utah, who told Pew that "in addition to the huge amount of labor cost savings, the (online registration) system provides for more efficient, accurate voter registration. The staff isn't trying to decipher handwriting because the applicant is entering their (own) information."
Here in North Carolina, election officials should be applauded for working with the DMV to allow citizens to update their voter registration information online, just as they can update and renew their drivers licences securely via the Internet. Now it's time to make another leap forward and join the broad majority of states that have successfully embraced online voter registration.