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April 23, 2009 09:43 PM UTC

21st Century Voter Registration

  • by: Fenny

( – promoted by redstateblues)

The Colorado Senate voted this morning to pass HB1160, a bill that will allow Colorado residents to register to vote and update their registration information online at the Secretary of State’s secure website. The vote was 33-0 in the Senate and passed in the Colorado House last month with a vote of 60-4. Secretary of State Buescher and the County Clerks Association strongly supported the bill. The bill was initiated and supported by New Era Colorado.

Only 2 other states, Arizona and Washington, currently provide voters with the option to register to vote online. In Arizona, voter registration numbers increased by 10% in the first year of the online option being available and over 70% of registrations now occur online. When Washington instituted online voter registration in 2008, almost 40% of new voters registered online. In the first six months, half of the new registrants were under the age of 30.

In other words, there is a strong demand for this registration option among voters.

How does it work? Sounds scary? It’s not. In fact, it’s arguably more secure than the current paper registration option in many ways.  

Here’s the deal:

The online form will allow current Colorado voters to update their registration record with address changes and mail-in ballot status by entering all of the same information that is currently required on a paper registration form. In the case of an address change, a postcard is sent to both the new and old address (like how the post office does when you change your address) in case there was a mistake or someone stole your identity.

The online form will allow first time registrants to register to vote online ONLY if they have a Colorado Driver’s License or ID. For these first time registrants, the digitized signature from their Driver’s License or ID will be used as the required signature on a voter registration form. This means that the person had to show up in person to a government office, provide a birth certificate, and show documentation to a government employee. To me, that sounds about as secure as you can get, so don’t even think about bringing up the argument about undocumented immigrants being able to register to vote online.

Assistant Minority Leader Senator Brophy gave a short speech before the vote this morning urging his colleagues to vote yes for the bill. It helped. The bill didn’t get a single No vote and accumulated a boatload of co-sponsors. Quite a difference a year makes–New Era Colorado first brought this bill forward last year and it died in House Committee. We learned our lesson and secured the support of the Secretary of State and the County Clerks Association this year. New Era volunteers sent thousands of letters and calls to legislators in a broad grassroots peer-to-peer campaign, testified in committees, and lobbied their legislators.    


18 thoughts on “21st Century Voter Registration

  1. Interesting that people will be able to register online, a 2009 use of the internet.  Yet, there is the refusal of many to vote online preferring a technique many of previous centuries.  If you can bank online securely, why not vote online?

    1. Registering is different in that there is time for verification to occur – the postcard sent out, the need for ID the first time voting.

      When voting online, what’s to stop me from installing a worm on everyone’s computer and the next thing you know I win the Gov race as a write-in.

      And a worm is just one way to do it. I can think of several more.

    2. It’s “hard” (as in, mathematical theory “hard”) to guarantee identity, privacy, and security at the same time…

      Elections rely on all three.  You must be identifiable as a valid voter, secure from others while voting, and anonymous on the ballot sheet.  No-one’s really figured out a way to do that as well as going to a polling place and casting a vote in person.

      1. So you are saying a paper ballot mailed to voters meets the conditions described, yet having a unique voter ID that can be used once online does not?

        I have come to understand there are voting parties where people come together to fill out their ballots;  also where relatives and friends fill out ballots for others.

        There are rumours about mail-in ballots being stored in boxes and not counted, as there are rumours of voting machines being not correctly set to count all votes.

        Online banking requires one to be identified, and secure using https, and could be anonymous too.  

        1. A mailed paper ballot might meet the criteria the day it is mailed, but it is impossible to prove that it was completed by the person it was mailed to.

          I think the push to all paper ballots is a mistake.  Paper ballots have problems of their own.

          If you have any doubts, look at the battleground on which the Minnesota Senate race is being fought.

        2. It’s not that no fraud occurs with online banking, it’s that the cost of the fraud is less than the savings from having customers use the internet. In addition, the cost of much of the fraud is pushed onto the businesses who then add that expense to the price of their products.

          The level of existing fraud in online banking would never be considered acceptable in an election.

          1. Do you have a citation with online banking fraud numbers?  I haven’t ever seen an article or stats to indicate that there are serious fraud issues with online bank accounts.  

        3. You’ll note I specifically said that in-person voting is the most secure voting, and that no-one’s figured out a way to do it as well remotely.

          Everyone seems to love mail-in ballots, but mail-in ballots (aka absentee ballots) should only be used when in-person voting is impossible or at least unreasonable.  They are, as you note, completely out of the control of the elections judges during the time that they’re “with the voter”.

          Increasing early voting and expanding the number of polling stations are the most secure ways to improve voter ballot box access.  And let’s think outside the box a bit – let’s consider mobile voting stations…  send a pair of election judges around in a specially equipped vehicle with an electronic voting machine (with paper record), and let them go to places where voters with polling place access problems call them…

      2. Other than genuine reasons for absentee voting, we should do it in person, with ID in hand.

        Nobody knows for sure who fills out absentee ballots. Nobody ever will.

        Besides, if you can’t get your butt motivated enough to get to a polling place to vote, why should I give a rip what you think?

        Have trouble getting around? All the parties and numerous non-profits will get you there.

        If you don’t care enough to put in a little bit of effort, why in the hell should your vote count?

        1. You really can’t demand that. There are people who have more than one job and may have to take care of kids as well. Particularly since lines can get very long (not the last one because so many voted absentee, but in general it’s quite possible especially under your scheme), voting can easily take more than an hour.

          This is the problem with setting policy based on your own situation and the situations of your friends. It neglects very real problems people can have.

          It’s also quite aside from people who may be too ill to get out of bed, who are also legally entitled to vote.

          1. Employers are required by law to give you time off to vote. Both parties have transportation and child care if you need it. People too sick to get out can always vote absentee, as can folks who will be out of town for whatever reason.

            Phoenix’s point about validity is right on.

        2. They are trade-offs with every approach. It’s like software, we can give you ironclad security but it makes the software unusable (take a look at Vista).

          In person is probably the most secure, but it does still leave opportunity for fraud. And it reduces turnout. Yes it would be nice if everyone took voting as seriously as we do but the bottom line is they don’t.

          Vote by mail is a bit less secure and allows the opportunity for a member of a household to cast a vote for another. (People getting together to fill ballots out is not an issue – that’s a choice they wish to make.) But the level of fraud here either with stolen ballots or one person answering another’s is limited. A person can change 5 votes but not 5,000.

          Vote by internet is easily the most convienent approach. However, it also allows for fraud on a massive scale. If I can impersonate the voting web server then I can change every single vote cast.

          1. There are (reportedly) voting parties at places like mega-churches.  That’s hundreds if not thousands of votes if it’s true.  The same could happen at union halls, or in college fraternities, or anywhere else peer pressure could be brought to bear.

            1. If I decide to fill mine out in front of my family, that is a decision that I choose to make. Yes there can be peer pressure, but we also provide a system where someone can say “oops, I already mailed mine” when it’s party time.

              What I’ve noticed with my kids is they are much more social with each other. So something we view as a very private act they seem to many times view as something they do together.

              1. Voting is considered “insecure” if not done in privacy.  Voting isn’t supposed to be done as a social event.  It is meant to be an individual, private decision.

                Excusing voting in groups because some people are more social than others is like saying torture is okay because it got results…  It completely misses the point: voting isn’t supposed to be done in groups, and torture is torture whether or not it gets results.

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