Iowa Launches OVR System


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Iowa is the latest state to launch its online voter registration system – but some advocates say it needs to be expanded to cover all eligible Iowans. The Des Moines Register has more:

Iowa’s new online voter registration system is already clocking in hundreds of visitors, despite criticism it doesn’t reach every potential voter, state officials announced Monday.

Iowa Secretary of State Paul Pate reiterated at a news conference that the system, launched on New Year’s Day, is intended to compliment the many options already available to residents who want to vote. That includes voter registration at the polls on Election Day and registering by mail.

Critics of the system have noted that the system requires a state-issued ID and therefore doesn’t serve voters who lack them:

“There will be no one who will be left behind,” [Pate] said, referencing criticism by some advocacy groups that the new system excludes roughly 145,000 eligible voters because it requires a state driver’s license or identification issued by the Iowa Department of Transportation.

Pate called Iowa a leader in voter accessibility and said there are now half a dozen options available in the state to register to vote. He said his office would take calls from anyone needing registration help, “no matter what their hurdle might be as long as they’re eligible to vote in Iowa.”

More than 200 people have accessed the website portal since it launched, according to Pate, though he was unable to provide more details about whether those people registered to vote or updated their voter information. He said he expects to provide that information in the future.

SoS Pate does intend to seek legislation – and funding – to expand coverage but notes it won’t be automatic:

Pate said he still wants to address the online registration gap, which is estimated to account for about 7 percent of Iowa’s eligible voters. He said it will require more money to expand the technology behind the new online system, which was funded through previously allocated costs for DOT. It was created by in-house developers at the department.

Pate said it’s unclear when his office might secure more funding, and it may require legislative action in the future.

Despite the criticism, it’s still remarkable that Iowa has managed to build and field its OVR system in roughly one year – the state has almost literally turned on a dime following the tenure of Pate’s predecessor, who prioritized fraud prevention and was himself criticized for funds spent on identifying and prosecuting alleged fraud. Kudos to the state development team for getting OVR up and running – and I look forward to seeing more detailed usage statistics once they are available.

Stay tuned …

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