Today Pennsylvania took an important first step in allowing some eligible voters the opportunity to register online.
While we laud the Wolf Administration for this step, it is only a small one; we must continue to press the Administration and the legislature to open online voter registration to every person who is eligible.
Press release from Pennsylvania Voice:
PHILADELPHIA, PA – Leading voting rights advocates thanked Secretary of State Pedro Cortes and the Wolf Administration for offering eligible Pennsylvanians the opportunity to go online to update or complete their voter registration forms. Beginning today, citizens of Pennsylvania can go to register.votesPA.com to register to vote.
“Deploying technology to make the registration process easier and more convenient makes sense, especially when it will also save money, increase accuracy and improve the voting experience,” said Susan Carty, board president for the League of Women Voters of Pennsylvania.
Online registration, which has already been implemented in 22 states across the country, is a critical first step in updating Pennsylvania’s strong voting system to reflect the needs of people in the 21st Century. With 84% of Americans—including 58% of seniors—now online, this change gives eligible voters an easier and more convenient way to register to vote that’s in keeping with the way people live today.
“The Wolf Administration should be applauded for this step, and we look forward to continuing to work with the Department of State to ensure that online voter registration becomes easy to use for all eligible voters in Pennsylvania,” said Jennifer Clarke, executive director of the Public Interest Law Center.
Allowing voters to register online ensures that all eligible Pennsylvanians, including veterans, seniors, new Americans, working people and people with disabilities have an equal opportunity to make their voices heard. During the 2014 election, 20% of Pennsylvania’s eligible voters were not registered, which significantly contributed to the state’s low voter turnout.
“For too many eligible voters, the registration process is a major barrier,” said Barry Kaufman, executive director of Common Cause Pennsylvania. “Online voter registration will bring more Pennsylvanians onto the voter rolls, increasing participation and strengthening our democracy.”
In addition to being more convenient, online registration is more efficient and accurate than paper forms, saving taxpayer dollars. States that already offer online registration reported saving between 50 cents and a few dollars on each electronic registration form they process. In addition, states save even more money by lowering their postage and printing costs. According to a recent report by the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, Pennsylvania could save up to $1.1 million by implementing online voter registration in advance of the 2016 election.
“When you look at the cost savings in other states from online voter registration, it’s clear that this is a win for Pennsylvania’s taxpayers as well as its voters,” said Rose Clouston, national coordinator for the Lawyer’s Committee for Civil Rights Under Law’s Legal Mobilization Project. “We hope this step leads to higher voter registration and participation rates especially in communities of color.”
Just as it has nationally, online voter registration has garnered support from both Republicans and Democrats in Pennsylvania. Senator Lloyd Smucker (R-Lancaster) has pushed for online voter registration, along with colleagues from both sides of the aisle. Now, the Wolf Administration has used its regulatory authority to implement online voter registration.
“At a time of so much partisan gridlock, it’s great to see Republicans and Democrats in broad agreement around online voter registration, which has already been tested and proven in 22 other states,” said Sundrop Carter, executive director of the Pennsylvania Immigrant and Citizenship Council.
Voting rights advocates have been working closely with the Department of State on this important update to Pennsylvania’s voting rights system. Members of the working group include: ACLU of Pennsylvania, Common Cause Pennsylvania, Disability Rights Network of Pennsylvania, Fair Elections Legal Network, Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, League of Women Voters of Pennsylvania, Planned Parenthood Advocates, Pennsylvania Immigrant and Citizenship Coalition, Pennsylvania Voice, Pennsylvania Working Families, Project Vote, the Public Interest Law Center and Urban League of Philadelphia.