Over the past few months, Secretary of State Mark Ritchie has initiated a variety of electoral reforms in Minnesota. He has been in the news recently because of his work to implement online voter registration, bypassing the political gridlock of the state legislature. The system was used by nearly 1,500 people in its first month.
What started as a bill on electing school board members received an important amendment as it went through the Illinois Senate, transforming it into a major piece of positive election reform. HB2418 was approved by both chambers this week and has been sent to the governor for his signature.
We spent a bit of time awhile back shaming Wisconsin for its omnibus legislation which threatened to reinstate voter ID, limit early voting hours, and toss out ballots at random. We certainly were not the only ones with qualms about the bill, and it would seem that our collective guilt trip worked!
As many states are wrapping up legislative sessions, two continue to blink on our radar. Both Oregon and Texas have bills on their dockets that could affect voters in their states. We will watch both states closely in the coming days.
By now you may have noticed that the US Census Bureau released the results of its polling around the 2012 elections. While the numbers do not indicate partisanship of voters or the candidates whom they supported, they provide a wealth of information on demographics such as age, gender, education level, and race of voters as well as the methods they used to vote and register, or, in other cases, why they skipped going the polls all together last year.
Following partisan fights surrounding election reforms, one election reform is giving hope for bi-partisan compromise nationally. Online voter registration is gaining recognition for its benefits to voters and elections administrators as more states are considering implementing an online system. Currently, 12 states have online voter registration measures in place, and five are working on implementation or final approval of similar measures.
Fair Elections Legal Network has been a longtime proponent of the benefits of online, or electronic, voter registration. It’s more affordable, in Washington state the cost of processing an online registration is $.45 more than a full dollar less than the $1.55 it costs to process a paper form. Electronic registration also dramatically improves accuracy in the registration process.
Bills to implement online voter registration in Pennsylvania and South Carolina demonstrate growing momentum in favor of modernizing registration. In Pennsylvania, Sen. Lloyd Smucker introduced SB 1515, a bill that would require the Department of State to create an online voter registration system within 90 days of the bill’s passage.
The Connecticut House of Representatives passed a bill this week that would allow eligible residents to register to vote on Election Day and would create an online voter registration system. Gov. Dan Malloy issued the following comments: “Passage of this legislation demonstrates Connecticut’s commitment to fair, accessible elections, and I applaud the House for their action on this bill.