A country that should be encouraging more people to vote is still using an archaic voter registration system that creates barriers to getting a ballot. In 2008, 75 million eligible people did not vote in the presidential election, and 80 percent of them were not registered. The vast majority of states rely on a 19th-century registration method: requiring people to fill out a paper form when they become eligible to vote, often at a government office, and to repeat the process every time they move. This is a significant reason why the United States has a low voter participation rate. The persistence of the paper system is all the more frustrating because a growing number of states have shown that technology can get more people on voter rolls. There’s no reason why every state cannot automatically register eligible voters when they have contact with a government agency. The most common method, now used in 17 states, electronically sends data from motor vehicle departments to election offices.
Ten states allow people to register online, and others, including California, are preparing to do so. In Washington State, for example, anyone with a driver’s license or state ID can register over the Internet. The paperless systems are much cheaper than the old forms and far more accurate. A recent study by the Pew Center on the States found that 24 million voter registrations (about 12 percent) are significantly inaccurate because they had not been updated or were erroneous to start with.
The Brennan Center for Justice reports that paperless systems have doubled the number of registrations through motor vehicle departments in Kansas and Washington State. In South Dakota, seven times as many people registered to vote at motor vehicle offices after an automated system began in 2006. Online registration is particularly appealing to young voters; in Arizona, a new system has increased the registration of voters ages 18 to 24 from 29 percent in 2000 to 53 percent in 2008.
The obsolete paper system has resulted in an overall registration rate of only 68 percent in the United States. Canada, by contrast, registers 93 percent of its population, using a computerized system that automatically gathers records from tax forms, the military and vital statistics agencies, as well as motor vehicle offices.
Full Article: How to Expand the Voter Rolls – NYTimes.com.