Voters in more than half the states will soon be able to register online, rather than filling out a paper form and sending it in. Twenty states have implemented online voter registration so far, almost all in the past few years. Seven other states and the District of Columbia are now in the process of doing so. That includes Florida, where Republican Gov. Rick Scott signed a bill last Friday requiring the state to allow online voter registration by 2017. Online voter registration has become so popular because election officials say it’s more efficient than a paper-based system, and cheaper. Voters like it because they can register any time of day from home, said David Becker, director of election initiatives for the Pew Charitable Trusts. “What election officials are finding, is they’re saving a ton of money, because they’re having to process a lot fewer pieces of paper by hand, right before an election, and get that into the system,” he said.
… Still, not everyone is sold on the idea. Florida’s bill had strong bipartisan support in the legislature, but Gov. Scott said he signed the measure “with some hesitation.” Scott said he was worried about meeting the October 2017 deadline, especially with a presidential election on the way. And his secretary of state, Ken Detzner, told lawmakers last month that he also opposed the bill because it was a massive undertaking. “You’re dealing with the most sensitive part of an election. You’re dealing with voter registration systems. And if we do it wrong, we are in a heap of trouble,” Detzner said. Some Republican lawmakers in Texas have also blocked an online registration bill in that state, saying they’re worried the system would be vulnerable to cyberattacks.
However, computer experts say that’s not a problem as long as certain safeguards are put in place. Pamela Smith, president of Verified Voting, a technology watchdog group, gave this advice: “You want to make sure that you’re testing for security while the system is being built and once it’s in use. And you want to have a strategy for what happens if there’s a failure of the system at a critical moment, like Election Day.”
In most cases, voters need to have a driver’s license to use the online system, which means states can also require them to show their licenses the first time they appear at the polls as an extra precaution, she said.