Is Online Registration Reaching a Tipping Point?


[Image courtesy of crappygraphs via Infovark]

I’ve written a LOT over the last year-plus about the coming emergence of online voter registration (OVR) as a key innovation in the field of election administration – but recent events suggest to me that this emergence is rapidly entering the present tense.

Two data points don’t make a trend, of course, but following last week’s endorsement of OVR by the Presidential Commission on Election Administration, this story from KMALand in Nebraska – hardly a hotbed of progressive ideas – caught my eye:

A bill before the [Legislature] would enable Nebraskans to register to vote online, 24-7.

Nebraska Secretary of State John Gale, who oversees the state’s elections, says he’d support the move onto the Internet and once the website is created, it would be a relatively quick, simple process for the user to get registered.

“You have to have a driver’s license and that driver’s license has to be a Nebraska license that’s identifiable through the Department of Motor Vehicles,” Gale says. “From that information, we can capture accurately the exact legal name, the driver’s license number, and the signature. It’s so critical that we have the signature for purposes of comparison when people go to vote.”

The bill, LB 661, is being sponsored by Senator Bob Krist of Omaha.

The legislature’s Government, Military and Veterans Affairs Committee reviewed the bill last week. Adam Morfeld, the executive director of Nebraskans For Civic Reform, was among those who testified in favor of the change.

“One of the biggest things that’s a big surprise to people who call our office, asking about registration deadlines or where they need to vote or where they need to register, is the fact we don’t have online voter registration,” Morfeld says. “There are a lot of people who will message me and ask, ‘Where do I go register to vote online?’ and I tell them, ‘We don’t have that yet.'”

The emergence of a consensus in Nebraska – where advocates who hammered the Secretary of State for alleged election problems are now praising him for his support of OVR – suggests that we could be entering a period of rapid adoption. If that does indeed occur, watch for significant changes in the ways in which voters interact with the election system going forward.

In other words, the future may soon be right now. Stay tuned.

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