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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