State House Sound Bites

Capitol reporter Katie Meyer covers Pennsylvania politics and issues at the Pennsylvania state capitol.

PA launches online voter registration

Written by Mary Wilson, Former Capitol Bureau Chief | Aug 27, 2015 11:44 AM
WolfandCortes_0827.jpg

Foreground: Marian Schneider, deputy secretary of elections & administration, Gov. Tom Wolf, and Secretary of State Pedro Cortés.


Pennsylvania is becoming the 23rd state to allow its residents to register as voters by going online.

The paper registration forms aren't going anywhere, but now Pennsylvanians will have the option of online voter registration due to policy change by the Wolf administration.

Secretary of State Pedro Cortes said during a press conference Thursday that the new system should cut costs and reduce errors in the voter rolls that stem from transferring information from handwritten registration forms.

"In the 22 states that already are using online voter registration, voters as well as election officials have found the process and the technology to be accurate, efficient, and secure," Cortes said.

Voting rights groups praised the move, saying it could increase voter participation.

Cortes said the system software will cost the state about $200,000 over a few years. Other states, he added, have reported savings at the state and local level that have quickly exceeded the costs of their online systems.

Governor Tom Wolf, who after the announcement made small talk about how he renewed his Jeep's registration online, said he doesn't support online voting for security reasons. But online registration, he said, appears to be a no-brainer.

"According to the Pew Charitable Trust, online voter registration does three things. First, it makes the exercise of registration obviously more convenient for citizens," said Wolf. "Second, it helps cut through language barriers... and finally, it improves accessibility for people who, for whatever reason, can't physically show up to places where voter registration now has to take place."

The Wolf administration claims to have the authority to launch the online system based on two state laws passed in 1999 and 2002. Cortes said the administration would also support a law mandating online voter registration so it wouldn't be subject to the whims of the executive branch.

People who use the online system must have a signature on file with PennDOT, or else they'll need to send it by mail.

The online registration form, in English and Spanish, can be found at register.votesPA.com.

Published in State House Sound Bites

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