Why Online Voter Registration Is A Winning Proposition For Ohio
A Guest Column By State Senator Frank LaRose
June 01, 2015
 
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From managing our finances to submitting job applications, our society has become accustomed to conducting business online. We expect convenient online access not only to private businesses but also to the government agencies and elected officials who serve us. In 26 states across the U.S., this access extends to the convenient and secure option of registering to vote online. Ohio, despite the bold measures it has otherwise taken to make voting easy, convenient and secure, is not one of them.
 
Ohio voters can update their voting address online, but new voters must still register to vote by paper. For Ohio’s election administrators, processing paper registrations consumes an inordinate amount of staff time and taxpayer dollars every year. We expect our elections infrastructure to keep pace with technological change, but current state law is holding this important advancement back.   
 
It’s time to move our state's voter registration procedures into the 21st century. At the beginning of this General Assembly, I introduced new legislation to authorize the Ohio Secretary of State to develop a secure online voter registration system. If enacted, Senate Bill 63 would give Ohio voters the option of registering to vote by submitting a simple form online. As with paper registration, anyone registering to vote must be a U.S. citizen, an Ohio resident for at least 30 days before the next election, and meet all other eligibility requirements.
 
If the experience of other states is any indicator, Ohio stands to gain greater accessibility, efficiency and accuracy by introducing the option to register to vote online. A long-awaited innovation, the time has come for Ohio to implement online voter registration.
 
For many voters, having the ability to register to vote online in the convenience of their own homes can be a key factor in determining participation. When the state of Nevada began to allow online registration just prior to the 2012 election, its number of new registrations doubled. As many veterans groups have pointed out, providing the option to register online to vote significantly improves access and convenience for military members serving our country overseas. Ohio is already one of the most voter-friendly states in the country, and implementing online voter registration provides yet another way to expand access to voting.
 
Taxpayers will benefit from sizable cost reductions in election budgets—an estimated 50 cents to $1 saved from processing each voter registration. From 2010 to 2012, Ohio could have saved as much as $3 million dollars from processing registrations online instead of by paper.
 
For election administrators, online voting registration means achieving greater accuracy. Ultimately, removing the middleman also removes the likelihood of human data entry error and makes for more seamless, efficient elections. The online voter registration system would instantly cross-check with the Ohio Bureau of Motor Vehicles' internal database. This additional security measure provides assurance of citizenship and other necessary information so that achieving greater efficiency does not open the door to fraudulent registrations.

Establishing online voter registration is a top priority for Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted and the bipartisan Ohio Association of Elections Officials (OAEO). From countless meetings and conversations with these elections experts, voter advocacy groups and my own constituents it is evident to me that the time has come for Ohio to join the majority of states that have modernized their voter registration laws. National momentum is swinging in the direction of greater voter access, and Ohio cannot afford to be left behind.

The strength of our democracy hinges on healthy voter participation, and introducing online voting registration can boost participation while improving efficiency and effectiveness at the same time.

For Ohio, online voter registration offers a simple proposition: everyone wins. 

 
 
 
  
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