Brave New World Alert: Virgin America (and Ohio) Offer New Ways to Register


[Image courtesy of gadling]

Yesterday, California-based airline Virgin America announced that passengers will now be able to register to vote on all of its domestic flights. The announcement, which coincided with the inaugural flight of a new route from San Francisco to Washington’s Reagan National Airport, is the result of a partnership between the airline, Rock The Vote and PromoJam.

Through this partnership, passengers with smartphones will be able to scan a QR code provided through the in-flight entertainment system, which will then take them to Rock the Vote’s application to fill out a registration form online. Depending on the state, voters will then need to complete the registration via a signature or some other method in order to finalize their registration.

Now, I’m not necessarily expecting this program to result in a surge of new voters – after all, people who are 1) flying 2) nonstop 3) between DC and San Francisco are likely highly engaged and thus already registered if they are eligible wish to vote – but just the fact that it’s possible signals how much registration is changing across the nation.

While we are not yet anywhere near a paperless system of registration in America, the Virgin America program demonstrates that the traditional tools of voter registration – a form, a pen and a surface to write on (legible handwriting optional) – are no longer the only method to add (or update) your name on the rolls.

Indeed, you don’t even need to go airborne to see this happen.

Recently, the Columbus-based State of Ohio (see what I did there?) announced that Buckeye State voters could check and update their voter registration records at This isn’t as eye-catching as the Virgin America program, but it is likely to have a huge impact on elections by reducing the number of provisional ballots cast by otherwise eligible voters who have moved.

These are exciting times in the field of elections – sometimes in a good way, other times not – but you don’t have to buy a plane ticket to see that the sky’s the limit for changes to the nation’s system of voter registration.

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