Bringing Voter Registration Into The 21st Century: A Q&A With One of Its Proponents

November 6th 2014

ATTN: Staff

We caught up with US Senator from New York Kirsten Gillibrand, who introduced legislation that would bring voting rights into the 21st century, making it easier to access voter registration information online.

Q: What is the Voter Registration Modernization Act and how is it different from all of the other bills on voting rights coming before Congress this year? 
The Voter Registration Modernization Act is a bill to expand online voter registration to all states. This is a measure that was taken from the Voter Empowerment Act (S. 123) which I introduced at the beginning of the 113th Congress in partnership with Civil Rights activist, Congressman John Lewis. This bill is different from other election reform measures in that it promotes the idea that our voter registration system should be modernized by allowing eligible voters to have the option of registering to vote online.  

Q: Why is this a priority to you? 
As we approach the 2014 election cycle, it is critically important that every American eligible to vote has many opportunities as possible to register to vote. Online voter registration has been implemented in more than 20 states and is effective in increasing the accuracy of voter rolls, minimizing data entry records by election administrators, and saving states millions of dollars in administrative costs. This is a common sense measure that should be expanded to every state.  

Q: What are the arguments against supporting the Voter Registration Modernization Act?
To date, there have been no groups that have come out against the Voter Registration Modernization Act. It is simply a bill that takes paper voter registration into an online format. This is an idea that several Republican secretaries of states have already implemented and we hope to expand it to states currently without such a system.   
Q: Do you believe not allowing online registration is a form of voter suppression? 
Unfortunately, voter suppression goes beyond simply registering to vote. But it is my belief that having an online voter registration system will help clear up the inefficiencies in our current voter registration system by improving the accuracy of voter rolls and minimizing data entry errors by election administrators. 
Q: Does switching to online voter registration save us or cost us more money?
It has been proven that online voter registration SAVES states money through a reduction in printing and mailing costs. The cost effectiveness of online voter registration is so impressive that the state of Kansas reported no expense in building its system. Maricopa County, Arizona reported a near savings of $1.4 million from their online voter registration system during a four year period from 2008 to 2012.
Q: What states already have online voter registration and until this is passed how do American's ensure they are registered before the upcoming critical midterm elections? 
There are 20 states with full online voter registration systems including Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Georgia, Indiana, Kansas, Louisiana, Maryland, Minnesota, Missouri, Nevada, New York, Oregon, South Carolina, Utah, Virginia, Washington State and Illinois.

Americans can contact their local Board of Elections to determine if they are eligible to vote in the upcoming elections. If eligible to vote, but not registered, individuals can request and fill out a voter registration form. If people are not sure if they are eligible to vote, they can ask the Election Administrator within the Board of Elections to check their registration status.

You can find out more about voter registration at OurTime.org