You can do your banking on your smartphone or buy a refrigerator on the Internet, but you can’t register to vote in Illinois without putting pen to paper. On Wednesday, Gov. Pat Quinn announced he wants to change all that by setting up a system that would allow Illinoisans to register to vote online. “In our Illinois, we embrace the voices, and the votes, of all people. Our democracy is strongest when more voters raise their voices at the ballot box,” the Chicago Democrat said during his annual State of the State speech. “We must move our election process into the 21st century.” Quinn aides say the move could boost turnout and eventually save taxpayer dollars by eliminating the need for personnel and paper to process applications.
And, it could be especially helpful in driving younger, tech-savvy voters to the polls, since they are among the lowest percentage of Illinoisans when it comes to being registered to vote.
According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, which tracks laws and legislation, 12 other states have already implemented online registration systems and a handful more are either considering the idea or are poised to unveil their systems.
Among Illinois’ neighbors, Indiana is the lone state offering the service. Missouri lawmakers are considering a proposal.
In Oregon, which approved online registration in 2009, officials are pleased with the results.
“It’s been very successful for us,” said Tony Green, spokesman for the Oregon Secretary of State’s Office election division. “We’re trying to make it convenient for people, and online is increasingly the way people do business, particularly younger people.”
Meg Casper, spokeswoman for the Louisiana Secretary of State’s Office, said it was particularly handy on the final day of registration during the run-up to the presidential election.
“It allowed people to register right up until midnight,” Casper said, eliminating the need for voters to leave work to stand in line at an election office. “Online registration certainly makes it more convenient.”
In Arizona, registration went online more than a decade ago and resulted in a 9.5 percent jump in voter registration, according to National Conference of State Legislatures.
A 2010 study by University of Washington and University of California researchers found that people who registered to vote online turned out to vote at higher rates in 2008 than those who registered in traditional methods.