Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Liberal Groups Seek to Water Down Online Voter Registration

One of the success stories of bipartisan cooperation in election administration policy has been states’ adoption of online voter registration. While there are holdouts, generally speaking, there has been a consensus it is a good government reform that saves taxpayer dollars, increases the integrity of the voter rolls, and makes it easier for people to register to vote or update their registration record.

One of the reasons why Republicans have been willing to back online voter registration in several states was the fact that the application verification process is tied to the state’s DMV database. Typically how the process works is an applicant will visit a state’s secure website and enter in various identifiers such as social security number info, Driver’s License number, Date of Birth, and other information. The information provided by the voter is bounced against the DMV database which confirms that the various fields of data entered in by the applicant match the record on file with DMV. That person can then complete an application to register to vote or update his/her information.

RNLA’s report on the PCEA commission’s recommendations endorsed online voter registration, albeit with the caveat, that any application portal be tied to another official database. RNLA’s PCEA paper notes:
States that have successfully implemented online registration have designed the system so that an individual applying online must provide information such as a Driver’s License number, date of birth, social security number information, other unique personal identifying information that is matched and verified electronically against state’s DMV records. The registration and DMV databases communicate with each other and ultimately inform the registration official that the applicant provided information on the application that matches information in the DMV database. Online applications should only be an option for those that can provide such matching information.
Well, RNLA saw the handwriting on the wall and knew that liberals would be working to water down online voter registration. There are now grumblings among liberal groups that online voter registration is somehow discriminatory. Lloyd Leonard writing at the national League of Women Voters’ blog argues that states with online registration are “imposing a restrictive ID requirement on voter registration online.” Going further he says, “These circumstances raise concerns about voter discrimination, plain and simple.”

The reason Leonard says is that most states require a Driver’s License or at least some record with the state DMV to participate, ignoring the fact that the existing paper based registration still exists for those individuals not in the DMV system. Some states like Virginia allow a convenience feature to a voter not in DMV’s database to complete the application online, print it and mail it in.

In its PCEA report, RNLA explains the importance of tethering online voter registration to an official state database. RNLA even leaves open the possibility of a state database other than DMV providing such a security feature but makes clear you need an extra step to prove identity when an individual is registering to vote online. Liberals are now trying to remove that important anti-fraud safeguard and in doing so risk spoiling the bipartisan consensus on this issue. This is an important issue to watch at the state level. Are states going to start watering down online registration and remove its protections against fraud?

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