Pennsylvania Launches Online Voter Registration to Increase Efficiency and Offer Convenience
August 27, 2015
Harrisburg, PA – Governor Tom Wolf and Secretary of State Pedro Cortés today announced that Pennsylvania is the latest state to launch the convenient option of registering online to vote.
The online registration application, hosted by the Department of State, is now available for use by eligible citizens at register.votesPA.com.
“Online Voter Registration is about making the voting experience more convenient and more accessible,” Governor Wolf said. “It is about giving citizens an easier way to exercise their right to vote and establishing a clearer connection between the political system and the citizens. Online voter registration is secure, it improves accuracy and will reduce costs for counties by cutting down on time-consuming data entry.”
Online voter registration (OVR) is currently available in 22 states, with the measure approved but not yet implemented in another five states plus the District of Columbia.
“As elsewhere, Pennsylvanians have grown accustomed to doing business online, whether it is shopping, banking or filing their tax returns,” Sec. Cortés said. “As a natural extension, they want the convenience of registering to vote using their own computer or mobile device. Online voter registration makes the process more accessible and accurate.”
The new site, available in English or Spanish, also allows currently registered voters to more easily make updates to their voter record, such as a change of name, address or party affiliation. Additionally, registered voters may use the new site to request assistance at the polling place.
“OVR has support from county election officials because it will improve accuracy, increase the integrity of the voting rolls, reduce time-consuming data entry and yield considerable cost savings,” Sec. Cortés said.
A May 2015 report by the Pew Charitable Trusts said states using online voter registration had seen per-application savings ranging from $0.50 to $2.34. In Arizona, which in 2002 became the first state to implement online voter registration, election officials report their cost is 3 cents for each online application versus 83 cents for a traditional paper form.
“Pennsylvania’s counties have the primary responsibility for managing voter registration and conducting our elections, and we strongly support measures such as this that facilitate and improve our citizens’ access to the polls,” said Lancaster County Commissioner Craig Lehman, President of the County Commissioners Association of Pennsylvania.
When an applicant completes the online form, the information is forwarded directly to the appropriate county voter registration office for processing. There, election staff will find that electronic application eliminates the problem of trying to decipher often illegible handwriting. Additionally, county election staff will not have to follow up on missing information on the electronic applications, because the online form cannot be submitted if any required data fields have not been completed.
Counties will receive the applications through the same system which currently forwards Motor Voter applications from the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation, so there was minimal training needed for county election workers.
The online system is more secure for applicants because the form will be transmitted directly to the proper county voter registration office for processing. In contrast, a traditional paper application containing personal information might pass through several hands before the registration is complete.
The latest protocols in data security have been built into the system and will be constantly monitored and updated. The Pew study reported that there have been no security breaches in any of the states already using an online system.
Because the online voter registration site is directly linked to PennDOT’s Motor Voter system, if an applicant has a driver’s license or PennDOT ID card, the signature already on file with PennDOT can immediately be linked to the voter record.
Applicants who do not have a driver’s license or PennDOT ID card will be able to print, sign and mail the completed online application to their county voter registration office. If they are not able to print the application, they may request that the Department of State mail them a signature card to complete and return to their county office.