09/19/2012 by Christopher Nelson
Online voter registration a reality today in California
graphic courtesty of inthecapitol.com
We live in an age where the things we can do online defy logic. Scan a shoe you like with your phone to see if a random store in Delware has them for $5 cheaper? Sure. Sign your student loan documents remotely? Absolutely. Talk Skype trash to a friend in your fantasy football league who is stationed in Afghanistan after sending him your league dues by PayPal and gifting him a recently released movie over Amazon? You got it. These things were unfathomable a mere 10 years ago.
So then why has the ability to do something like register to vote, which is so fundamental to our democracy and far outside the esoteric realm of that intramural dodgeball trading card fan forum you spend a few hours in from time to time, lagging so far behind in transitioning to cyberspace?
As the 2000 debacle in Florida proved and the continued kerfluffle over voter ID laws in this current election cycle further validetes, moving voting itself online is understandably a contentious topic. Given the ease with which debit card numbers are phished and identities poached online, it's no wonder there is more than a little concern over the security of taking elections into the electroinic ether.
But today, California is taking the plunge with online voter registration in a milestone announcement that is a definite step in the right direction and will absolutely remove barriers for many to participate in the democratic process, especially for those part of younger generations that can't comprehend of something you can't do online.
"We know that one of the main reasons that people are not registered to vote is because they haven't been asked. Well, now asking will just take a simple email or text message or tweet," said California Secretary of State Debra Bowen in a press conference today making the announcement.
"Now nobody has an excuse not to register to vote," Bowen said.
The process is simple. Your signature on file with the DMV can now be shared for voter registration services. All laws and procedures governing registrations are identical; none of the safeguards change. It's not automatic as registrants must still be validated after submission.
Bowen claimed that over 3,000 Californians registered in just the first hours the system went live. The application is available in English and Spanish and is projected to save counties some serious cheddar.
Other state officials and representatives from organizations which champion voter registration efforts are praising the new development.
"Today is a good day for democracy is California," said State Sen. Leland Yee at the same event with Sec. Bowen.
“California has taken an important step in making voting accessible, free and fair for all eligible voters,” said Kathay Feng, executive director for California Common Cause. “California’s new Online Voter Registration system not only will save the state and counties millions of dollars in data entry, voters’ information will be secure, the data will be more accurate, and voters will have ease of access to register to vote.”
Clearly this is a big deal. Efforts like Rock the Vote, which specifically target Millenninals with their outreach efforts, can only stand to benefit from such a massive wall coming down. The more diverse the pool of registered voters, the more likely our elected officials will represent the true diversity of our state.