Senator Gillibrand pushes for comprehensive online voter registration

In a press conference yesterday, New York Senator Kirsten Gillibrand announced a new bill, the Voter Registration Modernization Act, that would require the 25 states that do not currently have online voter registration to implement it. It would also create a national online registration system, building upon the online registration capabilities at the state level.

If passed, the bill would expand online registration to the approximately 100 million Americans who currently have to register to vote on pen and paper, a requirement that contributes to low registration rates nationwide.

In the 21st Century, it’s a wonder that online voter registration isn’t already universal. While government typically lags behind the private sector in terms of updating their technology — we don’t like paying for new computers at the DMV — online voter registration saves time, resources and, by extension, money for municipal governments. So setting aside the civic benefits associated with expanded ballot access, the bill is also a financial winner for states who simply haven’t gotten around to setting their system up yet.

It is unlikely that her bill will gain much traction in the Republican-controlled Senate. Gillibrand sponsored a similar bill last year, seeing little success. However, it will at least be interesting to see the grounds on which the GOP kills the bill this time. Online voter registration has been successfully implemented in 21 states, and passed in four more, with no issues relating to fraud or security breaches. In fact, online voter registration is arguably more secure than paper and pen methods, as it could include a form of email verification that would prevent citizens from registering someone other than themselves to vote without their knowledge.

This being the case, the only reason to oppose the Voter Registration Modernization Act is if you are worried that the citizens who stand to gain the most from it are going to become voters who vote for the “wrong” candidates and parties. If and when the VRMA fails, it will serve as further proof that the GOP’s concern with ballot access has nothing to do with generalized democracy and everything to do with specific elections.


Jon Green graduated from Kenyon College with a B.A. in Political Science and high honors in Political Cognition. He worked as a field organizer for Congressman Tom Perriello in 2010 and a Regional Field Director for President Obama's re-election campaign in 2012. Jon writes on a number of topics, but pays especially close attention to elections, religion and political cognition. Follow him on Twitter at @_Jon_Green, and on Google+. .

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  • Sharon4562

    [>#

  • 2karmanot

    The last thing Republicans want is a representative democracy.

  • Indigo

    It can be done. It most likely will be done. When I first voted, the polling officer handed me a giant sheet of paper, about a yard long, to haul into the voting booth, and put a check mark in the box next to my choice of candidate. The polling officers counted the check marks well into the evening after the polls closed.That was in the early 1960s. Nowadays, I get a giant sheet of paper to haul into the voting booth and darken the circle next to my choice of candidate. The polling officers run the ballots through an automatic counting machine in the evening after the polls close. That’s a huge change! and in another 50 years or so, certainly by the year 2075, there’ll be more such changes.

  • Mark

    When can we have online voting?

  • Arshad Sherif, M.A., M.Ed.

    Is Kirsten Gillibrand trying to tell us something? Is she trying to tell us something in her own special way? Some will construe her interest in the topic of voting as an interest in 2016. If she is trying to make it easier for everyone to vote, which online registration undoubtedly does, there must be a
    benefit to her political career in some way. Her position in New York is very secure, and there is no challenge to her New York Senate seat anywhere on the horizon, so what are we to make of this interest that she now has in getting people to vote? And it is not an interest that she has only as regards her New York constituents. She seeks to make online voter registration available to the entire nation. Only a woman with an interest in the votes of every state in the nation would show an interest in online voter registration on a national scale.

    This may indeed be her way of announcing her candidacy for 2016. It is as subtle as she can be about the whole thing. As subtle as she can possibly be about her intentions.

    She can not be more subtle than that. But a woman who wants to make it easier for the entire nation to vote is surely a woman with big dreams of her own.

    A hottie blonde learns early to be subtle about the things she wants. When she’s desperate for sex she is subtle about it. And when she is desperate for higher office she is even more subtle.

  • Arshad Sherif, M.A., M.Ed.

    Is Kirsten Gillibrand trying to tell us something? Is she trying to tell us something in her own special way? Some will construe her interest in the topic of voting as an interest in 2016. If she is trying to make it easier for everyone to vote, which online registration undoubtedly does, there must be a
    benefit to her political career in some way. Her position in New York is very secure, and there is no challenge to her New York Senate seat anywhere on the horizon, so what are we to make of this interest that she now has in getting people to vote? And it is not an interest that she has only as regards her New York constituents. She seeks to make online voter registration available to the entire nation. Only a woman with an interest in the votes of every state in the nation would show an interest in online voter registration on a national scale.

    This may indeed be her way of announcing her candidacy for 2016. It is as subtle as she can be about the whole thing. As subtle as she can possibly be about her intentions.

    She can not be more subtle than that. But a woman who wants to make it easier for the entire nation to vote is surely a woman with big dreams of her own.

    A hottie blonde learns early to be subtle about the things she wants. When she’s desperate for sex she is subtle about it. And when she is desperate for higher office she is even more subtle.

  • FLL

    Kudos for Senator Gillibrand. This is an idea whose time has come. Of course, you’ll hear screeching from Republicans and Republican shills who feel that only conservatives should vote. Voting reform, using online registration is inevitable. We live in an online world, so why not make online voter registration universal?… unless you’re trying to suppress the popular vote for the benefit of the Republican Party. Now who might that be, I wonder.

  • 2patricius2

    I have been using ATMs for bank withdrawals for years. Have never had a problem with the system. Surely election boards can figure out ways of securely allowing people to register and vote online.

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