Legislation to start online voter registration in Idaho has passed the Senate on a unanimous vote, 34-0. It wouldn’t start until after next fall’s general election. The bill estimates a state cost of about $258,000 in one-time development costs, but Sen. Curt McKenzie, R-Nampa, said over time the move should save the state money. A study in Arizona found that online registration cost the state 3 cents per voter, McKenzie said, while registering on paper costs about 83 cents per voter. “So over time it does result in cost savings,” he said. “But for the most part, it really just makes it easier for citizens to register to vote. That’s what states have seen that have implemented, so it’s a good-government bill.” In an earlier committee hearing, Ada County Chief Deputy Clerk Phil McGrane told the State Affairs Committee, “As far as clerks go, this is long overdue, in terms of the time and the workload that we handle. … It’s good policy in that it makes voting more accessible to our voting public.”
McGrane said in 1980, 90 percent of Idaho’s voting-age population was registered to vote; today’ that’s dropped to 70 percent. “In addition to a decline in participation, we’re actually seeing a decline in voter registration as well,” he said.
Idaho Secretary of State Lawerence Denney, who is co-sponsoring the bill with McKenzie, House State Affairs Chairman Tom Loertscher, R-Iona; Sen. Grant Burgoyne, D-Boise; and Rep. John McCrostie, D-Boise, told the committee that 30 states already offer online voter registration. “Some of the benefits for us are greater accuracy,” Denney said. “The voter actually enters the information online, rather than writing it out on a paper registration form that has to be sent to the county and the county has to actually input that information into the voter registration system – there’s much more chance for human error in the paper system. … So we think there will be greater accuracy.”