Online progress: Voter registration should be done on the Internet

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Eligible Pennsylvania residents soon could be able to register to vote without stepping away from their computers or buying a postage stamp.

Senate Bill 37, which passed the state Senate unanimously, would allow Pennsylvania to join a dozen other states in allowing online, paperless voter registration. This would be a welcome move into the 21st century, and there's no reason for the House of Representatives to delay its passage.

Today eligible residents can register to vote at county election departments, certain state offices, PennDOT driver's license bureaus or by mail.

If the bill becomes law, persons with a state driver's license or other ID card could complete the process online. Applicants would have to provide their driver's license number or the last four digits of their Social Security number, but they wouldn't have to physically sign a registration because their signatures would be verified using those already on file with PennDOT.

As a safeguard against fraud, applicants who don't have licenses or state IDs could not register online. Registered voters also would be able to use the online system to change their party enrollment and their address.

The bill would not affect requirements that those eligible to register be at least 18 years old, a U.S. citizen for at least a month prior to the election, a state resident for at least 30 days and someone who has not served prison time for a felony within the last five years.

State Sen. Lloyd Smucker, a Lancaster Republican, said the system would be as secure as current methods. Online registration offers other benefits, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. The organization says that, in the long run, online registration is cheaper and has improved accuracy of the voter rolls.

The most important advantage is that it makes the process more convenient, increasing the likelihood that more citizens will register so they can exercise their fundamental right. Good government needs this step forward.

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