Ohio Voter Rights Coalition Blog; The Ohio Voter Rights Coalition: OVRC supports Online Voter Registration in Ohio (updated 6/29/15)

OVRC supports Online Voter Registration in Ohio (updated 6/29/15)

 On, 6/10, we presented the following testimony in support of Ohio Senate Bill 63 (read legislation summary here), which would create an online voter registration system.  Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted also testified in support of this legislation (read his testimony here).

Recent News on Online Voter Registration in Ohio

Online Voter Registration on its Way to Reality! ACLU Ohio Blog (6/29/15)
 To:    Senate Government Oversight and Reform Committee
From:   Camille Wimbish, Ohio Voter Rights Coalition
Date:   June 9, 2015
Re:  Proponent Testimony SB 63

Chairman Coley and members of the Senate Government Oversight Committee:

The Ohio Voter Rights Coalition (OVRC) submits this testimony in support of SB 63. OVRC is a group of organizations and individuals committed to democracy and access to the ballot. We encourage non- partisan civic engagement of Ohio Voters.

We applaud the bill sponsor for introducing this legislation as online voter registration is an important reform and its time has come to be implemented in Ohio. We summarize the key benefits of online voter registration below. Additionally, we suggest several changes to enhance the benefits of SB 63.

1.    Online Voter Registration is Cost-Effective and Convenient. Online registration means less paperwork, fewer workers and lower costs. Secretary of State Jon Husted estimated that if Ohio had implemented online voter registration between 2011 and 2014, Ohio would have saved $2.8 million – $13.2 million.1 Furthermore, the convenience of online voter registration cannot be overstated. Just as citizens go online to shop, pay bills, and view credit card statements, voters want the convenience of registering to vote and updating their address online.

2.    Online Voter Registration Creates More Accurate Voter Rolls. Online voter registration will result in fewer errors in voter records because applicants will be able to directly enter their personal information – applicants know their own information better than anyone else which will lead to more accuracy of the voter database. It will also eliminate the need for Board of Elections staff to decipher ambiguous handwriting. By making a simple and comprehensive online process in which you can both register to vote and update your registration, voters will have more confidence in the accuracy and transparency of their voter records.

3.    Online Voter Registration is Secure. Online voter registration systems are safe and secure because an online applicant’s eligibility is verified before being added to the rolls, just as an applicant who registers to vote on a traditional paper form. To date, no state has reported a security breach, as the systems include numerous safeguards.2 The potential for voter fraud is no greater with online registration than with paper forms.3 In fact, some may argue that online voter registration is safer than traditional paper registration as the applicant remains in control of his or her personal information and sends that information directly to the board of elections or secretary of state.

4.    Online Voter Registration is Non-Partisan. According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, 27 states plus the District of Columbia have passed or implemented online voter registration. Support for online voter registration is largely nonpartisan, as it has taken hold of red states and blue states, in big states and little states.4 In today’s era of hyper-polarized election issues, this is one area where we should all be able to agree that online voter registration is a win-win for voters and election officials.

While members of the OVRC agree that SB 63 is an important step to modernize elections, we suggest the following amendments so as to expand the benefits of SB 63:

1.    Expand access to voters who lack a driver’s license or state ID. An estimated 10% of Ohio’s voting eligible population lacks a driver’s license or photo ID5, and would be unable to utilize online voter registration in this bill’s current form. To bridge this gap, we suggest amending SB 63 to allow the Secretary of State to use a signature on file with a state agency to validate an applicant’s registration. Senate Bill 200 passed in the 130th General Assembly, already enables the Secretary of State and various state agencies to share any information necessary to register to vote.6 In the same way that the Bureau of Voters Vehicles is able to transfer an electronic signature for voter registration purposes, so too could state agencies such as the Department of Job and Family Services.  Because the state agency has already verified an applicant’s name, date of birth, social security number, and signature, no additional security risk is posed by transferring that applicant’s signature on file to complete an online voter registration.

2.    Require the BOE or SoS to follow up with an applicant who was unable to register to vote. In the event that an online registration is not successful, applicants should be contacted by the Secretary of State or the Board of Elections within a reasonable amount of time to complete or correct an application. Applicants should be offered a paper registration form and a brief explanation of why the registration was not able to be processed. Currently, Boards of Elections follow up on incomplete paper applications, and online applications should be treated similarly.

3.    Amend the affirmation language to be in compliance with R.C. §3599.36. The required language for election falsification penalties reads, “Whoever commits election falsification is guilty of a felony of the fifth degree.” Section 3503.20(D) inserts additional language enumerating maximum fines and prison time. Accordingly, the affirmation penalty on the online form should be amended to mirror the language on the paper form.

Thank you for your consideration. Please contact Camille Wimbish at camille@statevoices.org  if you have any questions.

News on Online Voter Registration in Ohio

Online Voter Registration on its Way to Reality! ACLU Ohio Blog (6/29/15)

Online for All ACLU Ohio Blog

Ohio Moves Closer To Online Voter Registration 91.3 WYSO (6/11/15)

Ohio Senate panel considers online voter registration bill WOWK TV (6/10/15)

Senate moving to approve online voter registration The Columbus Dispatch (6/10/15)

Ohio Senate Committee Considers Online Voter Registration Bill Project Vote Blog (6/10/15)

Could Ohio soon see online voter registration? Cincinnati Enquirer (6/10/15)

Will Ohio be next state to offer online voter registration? Middletown Journal News (6/10/15)

Ohio online voter registration would be convenient and secure: Senator Frank LaRose (Opinion) The Cleveland Plain Dealer (6/05/15)

State pushing online voter registration Ashtabula Star Beacon (5/29/15)

To follow this topic on Twitter, use #SB63.

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