Voter registration is moving online around the country and Wisconsin needs to get on board. In a rare agreement on voting policy, red and blue states alike seem to agree that offering online voter registration is a good idea.
According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, 17 states already have some form of online registration and another 14 are currently considering legislation that would pave the way for it.
Here in Wisconsin, we’ve spent a lot of time talking about potential ways to make it harder to vote, whether it was the voter ID law or recent discussions about ending same-day voter registration. I have said in the past I don’t support any measures that make it more difficult to vote. I think we should be moving in the exact opposite direction by extending voting hours and making early voting easier. Online registration fits perfectly into that pattern.
The methods we use for voting strike me as surprisingly low tech and there is no better example than the nice old ladies who work the tables every election day. It seems like a no-brainer to take a process that could be so easily automated online.
Registration is certainly a process that, while not hard to do by any means, is a large enough nuisance to keep some people from going to the polls – especially students who change addresses every year. Having a website available for citizens to register from their own homes, without having to find someone registering people with a clipboard (again, pretty low-tech) or scrambling to find a phone bill on election day could have a significantly positive effect on election day turnout.
As an added bonus, moving all of this online creates a more secure voter database and should reduce the time and money clerks’ offices spend on moving registration information from paper to electronic form.
This would be a fairly easy change, and I hope to see it brought up in Wisconsin soon. The Internet isn’t going anywhere and as everything else goes online, it makes sense to move tedious processes like voter registration out of the hands of volunteers and into a more central, automated system.
John Waters ([email protected]) is a senior majoring in journalism.