Ensuring easy and efficient access to the ballot box has long been a hallmark of a vibrant democracy. Therefore, any effort that streamlines, modernizes and enhances such access merits widespread support.
That’s why we throw our unbridled support behind a bill in the Ohio House of Representatives that would accomplish those missions through the implementation of online voter registration.
The legislation, sponsored by State Rep. Michael Stinziano of Columbus, D-18th, would require Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted to create an online voter registration system to allow qualified state residents to register to vote or to change their voter registration information on the Internet.
Husted, who has been pushing for such a system since taking office in 2011, makes a convincing case for state legislators to adopt the system this fall. In a visit with The Vindicator’s editorial board last week, Husted argued that online registration would be more convenient for voters, more cost-effective for county boards of election and more secure to prevent fraud and strengthen electoral integrity.
WHY SUPPORT THE PROPOSAL?
Abundant and compelling evidence supports each of the secretary of state’s points.
First, no one could argue that spending a few minutes in the comfort of one’s home inputting a short list of personal data onto an electronic voter registration form would not be easier than finding the time, energy and drive to travel several miles to a county board of elections office with their limited hours to wait in line to enter the same information with paper and pencil.
Such ease of access has expanded voter registrations greatly elsewhere. In Arizona, for example, voter rolls grew 10 percent statewide in the first two years of online registration. As such, the democratic process expands as well.
Second, the cost savings from such a system have been dramatic. In Arizona, the price tag on a paper registration is 83 cents, while the costs of an online registration are 3 cents. Cash-strapped Ohio could achieve similar results, saving taxpayers upwards of $3 million per year, Husted estimates.
Third, the system provides an effective way to lessen waste, fraud and abuse in voting. Online voter registrations require a driver’s license number that could be used to quickly and easily verify personal information against that same person’s records from the state’s Bureau of Motor Vehicles.
What’s more, the process removes one large layer of bureaucracy — boards of elections inputting information from paper application forms into their databases. In so doing it also removes one large layer of potential errors that could delay processing and also lead to charges of fraud or abuse and challenges at the polls.
MyOhioVote.com is starting point
Fortunately for state residents, Ohio has a head start in the move to online registration via its relatively new MyOhioVote.com network, in which state residents can change their voter-registration information. More than 106,000 have taken advantage of its online convenience in less than one year.
It’s now time and indeed past time that Ohio join 19 other states in adopting online registration. Stinziano’s bill and a companion measure planned by Ohio Sen. Frank LaRose deserve speedy transit through the halls of the General Assembly. Legislators should aim for passage this fall so that the ease, economy and integrity of online registration can be in place in Ohio for the critical 2014 state and federal elections.