Voter registration should be an online service in Texas
By Sen. Carlos Uresti
You can do just about anything on the Internet these days — look at your street from space, pay your bills, trace your family history, or buy a car.
But there's one thing you can't do online in Texas: register to vote. That's something I want to change.
Senate Bill 315, one of the first bills I filed for the 83rd session, would add voter registration to the increasing number of government services and functions available online, making it more convenient for Texans to participate in the electoral process.
Currently 12 states offer online paperless voter registration, two others are in the process of implementing laws to do so, and legislation is pending in ten other states. I think it's time that Texas joined them.
Arizona led the way with the first online voter registration program in 2002, and it has proved to be a success. According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, Arizona's secretary of state reports that more than 70 percent of all voter registrations are now performed online. In just the first two years that online registration was available, Arizona saw a 9.5 percent increase in the number of people signing up to vote.
There is a cost benefit as well from eliminating the data entry process. According to a 2010 report, "Online Voter Registration: Case Studies in Arizona and Washington," each paper registration costs 83 cents, compared to 3 cents for registering online, which also increased the accuracy of voter rolls.
Under my bill, eligible Texas voters could register online if they possess a valid driver's license or identification card issued by the Department of Public Safety. For those who do not have such documents, a website would provide a convenient way to register that minimizes typographical and transcription errors by submitting the voter's information on a mail-in card.
Support is growing for online registration in Texas, including those who actually do the work. The Texas Association of Election Administrators included the proposal on its legislative wish list.
Participating in the electoral process is a fundamental right of every American, and government should do all it can to encourage citizens to take advantage of that right. Online voter registration would make voting easier and more convenient, boost voter rolls, encourage young adults to get involved in the political process, and lead to greater turnout on Election Day.
Bringing the voter registration process into the 21st Century would be great for everyone.