A sensible election administration reform is quietly sweeping the nation. According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, 18 states have implemented or recently adopted online voter registration, either initiating a new registration or updating an old one. Twelve other states have legislation winding its way through the legislative process. The reform is bipartisan in that both Democratic- and Republican-controlled state governments have adopted it, from Arizona to Maryland. Legislators are attracted to online voter registration because it offers substantial election administration savings. Arizona, the first state to adopt online voter registration in 2002, reports that over 70 percent of registrations are now conducted online. The old paper system cost 83 cents to process each registration form, compared to 3 cents for the online system. The online system is more reliable than the paper system, reducing data entry errors that can disenfranchise voters and introduce other election administration costs when communications — such as absentee ballots — from election officials to voters are sent to a bad address. With state and local governments strapped for cash, online voter registration can reduce election administration costs by millions of dollars while simultaneously improving the integrity of the system. And for those who are concerned about fraud, federal law requires first time registrants to provide identification before they are allowed to vote.
So, who uses online voter registration? Which party may benefit? Data provided by the Maryland State Board of Elections illuminates patterns of online voter registration use. Keep in mind, Maryland is just one state, so these observations may not be applicable elsewhere.
A substantial number of people — 124,819 — used Maryland’s online system from the date the system went live on July 1, 2012 through the most recent date where I have data, April 11, 2013. Among these, 39.8 percent used the online system to initiate a new registration and 60.2 percent updated an existing registration.
A simple comparison of all registered voters to those using the online system reveals that online registrants tend to be less often registered as Republicans — by 8.5 percentage points — and more likely to register as unaffiliated or a minor party — by 8.0 percentage points. The partisan implications are likely a consequence of young people being much more likely to use the online system. For example, only 18.8 percent of registered voters are age 18-29, compared to 41.6 percent of online registrants. Women are also slightly more likely to use the online system compared to all registered voters, by 1.0 percentage points.
Full Article: Michael P. McDonald: Who Registers to Vote Online?.