Online Voter Registration Coming to PA?
In the wake of the Pa. Voter ID debate and given technology’s prevalence in peoples’ everyday lives, state Sen. Lloyd Smucker (R-Lancaster) has introduced a bill that would implement an online voter registration system within 90 days.
A number of Republicans are on board with the bill as being a money-saving venture and it seems the proposal has a viable chance of becoming law.
“Based on the experience in other states, online voter registration would save the Commonwealth and its counties a significant amount of money,” said Erik Arneson, Sen. Majority Leader Dominic Pileggi’s spokesman.
“It doesn’t seem like there’s any good reason to wait. It’s time to get this done.”
At least nine other states provide the online registration option, so Pennsylvania lawmakers would not be taking a chance on new or unfamiliar technology, according to Smucker’s office.
“One of the ways of getting greater public participation in elections is to make registration even easier,” he said.
He added that the law does not preclude the use of online registration, so this bill would simply be a means of putting a system in place that would be available in time for the general election — and may even make it possible to move up the registration deadline closer to Election Day.
Department of State Press Secretary Ronald Ruman said the state is already working on the process, and that it should be in place by November, although he couldn’t specify a date.
“The biggest issue is making sure it could be done securely” to protect voters’ info, he said.
Ruman said he couldn’t speak to the Smucker legislation, and that lawmakers would have to determine whether the deadline could be moved if voters were given an easier, more immediate means of registration.
“If someone wants to register, they’re going to register. But we certainly think it would help a number of folks and make it easier.”
Common Cause Executive Director Barry Kauffman said his organization has advocated for online registration for years, and, given the advancements of technology, such a move could be implemented without the worry that personal data would be at risk.
Common Cause is a nonpartisan good government group aimed at ensuring “open, honest, accountable and effective” elected officials, according to its website.
Kauffman said the State Department informed him that Pa. residents will be able to register online beginning July 1 (as long as they are in PennDOT’s driver’s license database), but Ruman said that date is more of a goal and expectation rather than a certainty.
“That date may have been a goal, and our hope certainly is that it will,” Ruman said. “ But…until we are certain, we’re not putting a specific date on it.”
Kauffman said that the PennDOT system is a start, he hopes it will eventually go further.
“While this move to offer online registration is being done administratively under current law, it may be useful to establish this as a right with broad applications” to include people not in the driver’s license database, he said.
“Ultimately, it should be available to any Pennsylvania citizen of voting age.”
Given the controversy and backlash over the Voter ID law, a move to make voting easier could provide a bit of a PR boost to the GOP.