Voter registration’s a click away
May 16, 2012
You go online to post your vacation photos, buy birthday gifts and share your relationship status.
But if you want to use the Internet to register to exercise one of the most fundamental rights of American citizenship—casting a vote—you’ve been out of luck.
The county is embarking on a project with the California Secretary of State to make online voter registration a reality here before the November presidential election.
The $270,873 county program, paid for by federal funds passed along by the state, is part of the California Online Voter Registration Project that seeks to make registration easier for the 9 million Californians—39% of the eligible population—who aren’t currently signed up to vote.
While it won’t change the requirement mandating registration 15 days before an election, it will make it easier for those who push it right up to the wire—like the thousands of county residents who tried, and failed, to register to vote in time for the last presidential election.
Updated 10/11/12: County election officials say voter registrations hit a one-month high in September, with 150,000 signing up, compared to 120,000 in the previous record month, September, 2008. The increase is due, at least in part, to the ease of online registration, according to the Registrar-Recorder/County Clerk. The registration deadline for the Nov. 6 election is Oct. 22. Click here to register.
“In 2008, we received literally several thousand registration forms the day after the registration cutoff,” said Registrar-Recorder/County Clerk Dean Logan. “These were people who, at the point that they were engaged and interested in becoming active voters, the system in essence failed them, through an administrative deadline. It’s hard to measure the loss of that. You wonder, will they come back if they didn’t get to vote in the one election where they were interested?”
The system will allow would-be voters to sign their registration forms electronically using e-signatures on file with the DMV. A widget on the county’s voting website, www.lavote.net, will send them to the Secretary of State’s site to register online beginning in late August or early September, Logan said.
The move to electronic registration is part of a broader movement to modernize the nation’s voting systems and remove barriers to electoral participation. Only 10 states, including Washington, Oregon and Arizona, currently have online registration. California is in the process of becoming the 11th, under Senate Bill 397 passed last year. Los Angeles, Orange and Trinity are the three counties that will be pioneering the process for their respective voting systems, before the whole state follows suit.
In a letter to the Board of Supervisors, which this week approved the county’s participation in the program, Logan and county Chief Information Officer Richard Sanchez said that younger voters between the ages of 18 and 25 are most likely to take advantage of the online registration option.
But Logan said it will also make it easier for anyone who moves within the state to keep their voter registration up to date.