Commentary

09.14.17

Ohio’s New Online Voter Registration: Expanding Access to the Ballot Box

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After years of lobbying and activism from voting rights organizations, Ohioans can finally register to vote online. This opportunity was not available prior to January 1, 2017, but now that it’s here, it’s sure to increase the number of people who can register.

In the past, Ohio residents could only register to vote with a paper form. The old voter registration process may have seemed simple, but in reality, it created many challenges for individuals without access to a vehicle, for single parents not available during the BOE’s operating hours, and for folks who live a great distance from their county’s board of elections. Secretary of State Jon Husted touts that in just two minutes anyone can register online, which is a blink of an eye compared to the old registration method.

Online voter registration creates a more inclusive system for all eligible voters. Visit the online voter registration page. 

The new process allows anyone with an unexpired driver’s license or state ID card to use the online system. To register, a voter will need to enter their driver’s license or state ID number, their name, date of birth, an address and the last four digits of their Social Security number. Voters will also need to grant the state permission to access their signature through the Bureau of Motor Vehicles, which will be used to electronically sign a voter’s registration form. This process is a huge step forward for Ohio.

In addition to making registration easier for voters, an online system makes the process more secure, efficient, and easily accessible. It also reduces administrative costs, minimizes data errors and increases the accuracy of state voter lists. Lastly, it can reduce delays and lines at the polls on Election Day because voters would have updated or registered ahead of time, received the correct information for their polling precinct and may avoid completing a provisional ballot. While internet access may be a hindrance for some, it does make registration more navigable and accessible for those who balked at using paper forms in the past. Given these steps ahead, there are still a few ways the system could be improved

 Making registration more accessible creates a fairer and more efficient system.

While online voter registration is revolutionary for Ohioans, the system is not flawless. Voters who do not have a driver’s license or state ID should be able to register online as well, and the state should expand the system to allow them to do so. Other states like California have developed systems to do this, and Ohio can too.

Ohio has made strides to increase voter participation through online registration While more work can be done, Ohio has already made commonsense updates to its voter registration system. Every voter can now take advantage of this technological leap forward and have confidence in its ability to improve our democracy.

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