Counterpoint: For online voter registration, it's about time

  • Article by: MARK RITCHIE
  • Updated: October 21, 2013 - 6:55 PM

Such a system saves money, is secure, and has been in demand (and in practice elsewhere) for years.

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Last month, the office of the Minnesota secretary of state launched online voter registration to deliver a less expensive and more secure method for our citizens to register to vote (“Online voting system needs bipartisan OK,” editorial, Oct. 15; “Beware of online voter registration,” editorial counterpoint, Oct. 18).

Minnesotans have responded enthusiastically to this new tool, with nearly 1,500 applications submitted. Along with praise of the system, we’ve also been asked: “What took you so long?”

It is fitting that the state that regularly records the highest voter turnout in the nation has access to all the available tools that support voter participation. Online voter registration joins a series of other innovative web-based services from our office that help voters find their polling place, look up registration or absentee ballot status, view a sample ballot, and request an absentee ballot if in the military or working overseas.

Online registration is the next in this series of modernizations that Minnesotans appreciate — and expect — in today’s technology-driven age.

On top of the positive voter reaction, the tool is loved by election officials for saving them time and money — good news for taxpayers.

In Arizona, where online voter registration has been used for more than a decade, officials reported cost savings of 80 cents per registration. This mirrors reports from 14 other states that have implemented the tool, including Kansas, South Carolina and Utah. In a big election year in Minnesota — when there are more than 800,000 registrations processed — this tool will result in significant savings to our county governments. This is one of the main reasons local election officials have been calling for this tool for years and are now applauding its arrival.

An equally important advantage of online registration is security. Voters handing over personal information on paper registration forms to groups conducting registration drives have no way of knowing how their information is being used or saved. In contrast, this tool allows voters to submit information from the privacy of their own homes in a secure online environment that was tested thoroughly and developed with security as the top priority. Another security component requires voters to provide an identification number that has to match other government databases for the registration to be accepted. If the number is not an exact match, the registration is rejected, preventing the submission of fraudulent applications.

The office of the secretary of state has had the authority to accept digital filings since 2000, when the Legislature decided that electronic signatures were the equivalent to those handwritten. Information digitally transferred has been successfully used to process electronic voter registrations for many years. People registering by checking a box on their driver’s license application have their information relayed digitally to the counties for review and processing. The online voter registration system collects the same information and follows the same verification process as the driver’s license and paper registration procedure.

I encourage Minnesota voters to use our online tools to make this Election Day, Nov. 5, hassle-free — check them all out at mnvotes.org.

 

Mark Ritchie is the Minnesota secretary of state.

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