HARRISBURG — Less than a month after the launch of online voter registration in Pennsylvania, more than 11,000 people have applied online to register or update their registration, according to state statistics.
Officials unveiled the online voter registration tool Aug. 27 (register.votesPA.com). Since then, 11,542 Pennsylvanians have used it, according to the Department of State.
The state isn’t doing any paid advertising to promote the new method, relying on news coverage and social media promotion from political parties and various advocacy groups.
“It’s something that we’ve been trying to share with people,” said Megan Sweeney, a spokeswoman for the Pennsylvania GOP, noting the party has been posting the information on its various social media accounts.
The state’s Democratic Party has posted messages about how to register to vote online on its Facebook and Twitter accounts.
“It’s been really exciting. Everyone is thinking about how to incorporate it into their outreach to voters,” said Shamaine Daniels, press secretary for the Democrats.
State officials and other advocates for online registration say it will save money on data entry, is more efficient for county elections officials and is more convenient for voters.
The majority of applications so far are for new registrations (6,723), with the rest (4,819) updating existing registrations, such as a change of address.
Democratic registrants account for more than half of those who have applied — 6,292 — with Republicans accounting for 3,965 and 1,285 applicants affiliated with no party or a third party.
Pennsylvania has more registered Democrats than Republicans — about 3.9 million compared with about 2.9 million — so such a pattern is not unexpected, experts said.
“Whoever is in the majority in your state is going to be the majority of people who are registering online. It should track pretty well with party composition in your state,” said Wendy Underhill, program manager for elections at the nonpartisan National Conference of State Legislatures. “There is certainly no data to show it is an advantage to one party or the other.”
In every state where there is data, “people who register online look almost exactly like existing registrants,” said David Becker, director of election initiatives at the Pew Charitable Trusts, which has advocated for states to adopt online registration. Those who register online “might be slightly younger, but not significantly younger. The partisan breakdown is almost exactly the same as the existing partisan breakdown,” he said.
So far, Allegheny County has had 1,493 online applicants. Mark Wolosik, elections division manager for Allegheny County, said there have been no problems or issues with the new system.
An online registration is checked the same as a paper application, verifying it is not a duplicate and that the address is in Allegheny County, he said. Voters receive information in the mail telling them they are registered and where the polling location is.
Pennsylvania’s move to online registration put the number of states that have it at 23, plus the District of Columbia, according to the Pew Charitable Trusts. Six states have passed legislation but don’t yet have active online systems.
The percentage of people registering online tends to grow over time, Mr. Becker said. Arizona, the first state to implement it in 2002, now has 70 to 80 percent online, he said.
State Rep. Daryl Metcalfe, R-Cranberry, who had initially threatened litigation over the governor’s implementation of online registration, could not be reached for comment.
Kate Giammarise: 717-787-4254 or email@example.com or on Twitter @KateGiammarise.