Online Voter Registration does more than just register voters

Image courtesy of the Pew Center on the States

I think Doug Chapin is seriously underselling the benefits online voter registration in his recent posting about Pew’s OVR initiative.

It may seem counter-intuitive, but online voter registration is not just about adding more citizens to the voter rolls.  In fact, that might be it’s least important contribution.

OVR should result in registration rolls that are more accurate, more efficient, and cost a lot less money to maintain.

These are the takeaways from Pew’s report on the current voter registration systems:  Inaccurate, Costly, and Inefficient: Evidence That America’s Voter Registration System Needs an Upgrade. The report authors write:

At a time when government budgets are significantly strained, our antiquated paperbased system remains costly and inefficient…

The paper-based processes of most registration systems present several  opportunities for error…

Election officials administer a system that  is fundamentally inefficient in a number of ways

It may be the case that these new systems have resulted in a higher increase in the number of new registrants than we would have otherwise seen in a presidential election year, but until we can conduct some comparative analyses after the election, we won’t know the answer.

We do know for certain that the registration records added in the thirteen states are far less likely to be invalidated due to errors, can be quickly and easily cross-checked with other statewide data systems if a state chooses to do so, and have cost the states less money than the old paper forms.

Cheaper, less prone to error, less vulnerable to fraud.   And maybe more registrations than before.

Just like voting by mail was initially misbranded only as a way to increase turnout, OVR is not only about more registrants.  It’s about taking advantage of technology to modernize our elections system.

What’s not to like?