Stealth Upgrade? PA Apparently Moving Toward OVR Implementation

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[Image courtesy of all-flags-world]

Online voter registration has been a high-profile reform in many states recently – whether adopted overwhelmingly in New Mexico or over the objections of the Secretary of State in Florida – but there are now indications that another state, Pennsylvania,  is moving toward joining the OVR ranks. The Altoona Mirror has more:

While state officials haven’t said much publicly about the plan, Pennsylvania could soon be the 28th U.S. state to offer paperless, online voter registration, local officials confirmed Friday.

The plan would open voter registration – currently carried out by mail – to the Internet, with state driver’s-licenseholders able to submit their signatures electronically. Those without licenses could sign up as well, though they’d still have to fill out some paperwork, officials said.

“It is coming. Online voter registration is coming,” Bedford County Chief Clerk Jill Gordon said Friday. “I don’t know an exact rollout date.”

Gordon said county-level election officers have been involved in phone conferences with state officials, including Secretary of State Pedro A. Cortes, to discuss the plan. Planners had initially hoped to roll out the new system by the end of August, she said.

Unlike many states, however, Pennsylvania appears to be taking a stealth approach with regard to OVR:

While the plan is apparently under discussion among those involved directly in registration, local party figures knew relatively little as of Friday.

“I hadn’t heard about it until my first phone call (earlier) today,” Blair County Republican Party Chairman A.C. Stickel said. County Democratic Chairwoman Gillian Kratzer said she hadn’t heard specifically about the plan as of last week. A Department of State spokeswoman said she didn’t have any information on the possible plan Friday.

On one hand, you can understand why the state is proceeding quietly. Recently, Pennsylvania has tended to make the news (at least in this field) because of the long-running fights over its voter ID law, reflecting the sharp partisan divisions within the state. Perhaps, given that as a backdrop, the Secretary’s office is proceeding cautiously – getting its OVR ducks in a row before going more widely public with its plans. But eventually, Pennsylvania is going to have to go public so that voters and parties and anyone else interested in promoting voter registration can get the word out – especially with the 2016 elections rapidly approaching.

As the Mirror noted, “[w]ith little official information available so far on the plan in Pennsylvania, it’s now up to state officials to reveal their next step.” Even if that announcement brings controversy or pushback, it will still end up being important given the key role any new OVR system will play in the upcoming 2016 elections.

In short, reports of the advent of OVR in Pennsylvania are welcome – but it’s probably time that everyone (friend, foe or undecided) knew more about the details, including timing.

As an electiongeek, I’ll be eagerly awaiting the details … Stay tuned!

 

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