[Image courtesy of commonblog]
A new Pew Election Data Dispatch looks at the expansion of online voter registration in the run-up to the 2012 election and finds that OVR systems have resulted in nearly 300,000 new registrations in just the last few months.
- + Nevada's campaign to promote online voter registration began on September 17, and, as of October 2, 15,000 new online registrations had been processed, averaging approximately 1,000 per day, or roughly five times as many as were processed in the first half of the month before the promotion. Then, in the final four days before the state's October 6 deadline to register online, another nearly 15,000 new registrations were processed along with more than 9,000 updates to voters' registration information. The day of the deadline saw the system's highest single-day usage with nearly 4,800 new registrants signing up.
- + Colorado ... sent out mailings to eligible but unregistered voters in late August. In the little over a month that has passed since, the state has seen more than 30,000 new registrations via its online system as a direct result of the mailing, according to the Secretary of State's office. Colorado's voter registration deadline was October 9.
- + California rolled out its system in mid-September, and more than 220,000 people used the system in its first two weeks. California's voter registration deadline is October 22.
- + Maryland's system debuted in July and, in a little more than two months, saw more than 8,000 new registrants and 14,000 people update their information. Maryland's registration deadline is October 16.
- + New York launched online registration in August and as of early October more than 9,500 new registrants used the system and another 14,000 updated their information. New York's deadline is October 12.
- + South Carolina's online voter registration system did not debut until October 2, four days before the state's October 6 registration deadline. The law allowing online registration passed the state legislature unanimously and was signed by the governor in June but did not receive pre-clearance from the U.S. Department of Justice until last week. Under the Voting Rights Act, the state must pre-clear any changes to election laws and procedures with the Department of Justice. In less than 24 hours after the system went live, more than 3,000 new voters submitted applications. Approximately 17,000 new registrants used the system during the five days it was available and an additional 8,000 voters updated their information.
The Dispatch also describes the impact of the Electronic Registration Information Center (ERIC), a partnership between seven current participating states - Colorado, Delaware, Maryland, Nevada, Utah, Virginia, and Washington - "to share registration and other state data (such as motor vehicles information) to improve both their ability to maintain clean voter lists and the efficiency of their voter registration processes." In particular, election offices in Colorado and Nevada were able to use ERIC to identify eligible but unregistered voters and reach out to them to encourage registration online or through other means.
Notwithstanding all of the discussion of voter ID in the last two years, the longer-lasting legacy of the current election cycle may be the gradual embrace of online voter registration - most notably in typically late-adopting states like New York and California. The process will undoubtedly get more scrutiny as more states adopt (I'll blog the recent story about security concerns in the next few days, for example) but for now Pew's latest Dispatch demonstrates the kind of numbers that a move to online voter registration makes possible.