Each election season my office hires up to a dozen temporary workers to process the flood of voter registration applications that pour in at the last minute. As much as 25% of voters register within the two weeks before the general election registration deadline. This is a good problem to have, as I am always happy to see people registering. However, there is a way to cut printing and processing costs while also simplifying the registration process.
Eight states (Arizona, Washington, Kansas, Oregon, Louisiana, Colorado, Utah and Indiana) have now transitioned to online voter registration, and their taxpayers, voters and election offices are all reaping the benefits. Here's how it typically works: voters go online and submit information that is cross-referenced against the states driver's license records. The key here is to pull the signature from the DMV files, because a signature is required on all voter registration applications. If the voter's information and signature is on file, then the voter needs only to confirm they are eligible to vote and fill in their current address.
There is a big upside to this process. According to a report by the PEW Center on the States, online voter registration is faster, cheaper and more accurate.
Faster: The processing time can be cut by as much as 80 percent over paper applications.
Cheaper: In Maricopa County, Arizona it costs 3 cents per online application versus 83 cents per paper application.
Accurate: Because information must match up exactly with pre-existing records there are fewer data entry errors or struggles to interpret bad penmanship.
It is also popular. Ninety percent of those surveyed in Arizona and Washington considered their state's online system easy to use.
As more and more states continue to adopt this new system, it is my hope that Illinois will move forward as well. This is the essence of smart, efficient government. Not only is online voter registration a quick and easy way for voters to register, but it will reduce election costs for years to come. It is true that online registration will cost money up front to put in place, but being shortsighted always costs even more down the road. The sooner we invest, the sooner we start saving.