BLOG: Creating a Government That Works for Businesses and Voters

By: Pedro Cortés, Secretary of State

January 13, 2016

In 2015, the Pennsylvania Department of State improved customer service and helped create a government that works. With Governor Wolf’s leadership, we launched Pennsylvania online voter registration, which makes it easier to register, improves the voter rolls and saves taxpayer dollars. We also made it easier to start a business and be an informed consumer.

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These measures also demonstrate the Department’s commitment to its mission: to ensure the integrity of the electoral system, to provide the basic infrastructure for business start-up and development, and to protect the public through licensing and oversight.

Watch Secretary Pedro Cortés talk about what the Department of State did in 2015 to help create a government that works.

 Bringing Voter Registration to the 21st Century

In August, I joined Governor Wolf to launch Online Voter Registration (OVR), the most significant election reform enacted in Pennsylvania in decades. OVR makes voter registration more convenient, accessible and secure. OVR was an immediate success with election officials, voters and editorial boards.

By the second week in January 2016, more than 61,000 Pennsylvanians used the online application. In December, the Department of State received the 2015 Pennsylvania Excellence in Technology Award for OVR.

The Department also launched a revamped election-results website just prior to the May primary election. The website allows users to view results on mobile devices, customize searches, and receive timely updates and provides a location-based service.

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Making it Easier to Start a Business

Our Bureau of Corporations and Charitable Organizations (BCCO) launched a new database that streamlines the corporate filing process for business owners and their agents. With SWORD, customers can choose the option of having their completed filing returned by email. Previously, filings were returned through the U.S. Postal Service: this reduces paper transactions and results in substantial cost savings for the Department.

Online filing through SWORD also enables faster processing because filings are sent directly to the proper staffing area for review. Additionally, SWORD filings have a much lower rejection rate because the filings will not transmit and customers are immediately notified if information is missing. This cuts down on delays for new businesses getting off the ground.

Increasing Transparency for Consumers

In keeping with the Governor’s commitment to greater transparency, the Bureau of Professional and Occupational Affairs unveiled a new database of documents related to disciplinary actions filed against any of the commonwealth’s nearly 1 million professional licensees.

The new database allows the public to directly download public documents outlining disciplinary action and penalties taken by the Bureau. Previously, the public could search online to check the status of a professional’s license, but the documents containing details of each case had to be requested through the BPOA Prothonotary’s Office.

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