Late last month, Gov. Pat Quinn signed a bill allowing Illinois residents to register online to vote. Illinois joins 18 other states that have some sort of electronic voter registration process.
Supporters of the law believe it will increase voter participation and decrease costs, while critics predict it will do little to increase voter turnout while making voter fraud easier. And, the skeptics say, registering online just doesn’t have the same sort of gravitas as registering in person.
So let’s take a look at the experience in Arizona, which has allowed residents to register online to vote since 2002.
According to a 2010 report, online registration has proved popular in Arizona — and those folks follow through and actually vote. Arizonians who registered online were more likely to turn out to vote in the 2008 elections than those who registered by other methods. The voter turnout among those who registered online was 94 percent, compared to just 85 percent among those who registered in the traditional in-person way. According to the same study, the cost of online registration was only 3 cents compared with paper registration’s 83 cents.
While online privacy concerns are legitimate, many government transactions conducted online already require the same personal information as voter registration. Why create more obstacles to register to vote than say, registering for a court date or paying a fine?
In a country devoted to the idea that it is the people who rule, it’s essential to make it as easy as possible for citizens to register and vote. Now that the Supreme Court has overturned key parts of Voter’s Rights Act, it is perhaps more important than ever to reach out to all potential voters. It is only a matter of time before we’re all voting online, too.