Just one year after Pennsylvania’s Legislature pushed through a controversial voter ID law that would make voting more difficult for some residents of the commonwealth, a bill has been introduced in the state Senate that could, happily, make it easier to get on the rolls.
The measure, unveiled by state Sen. Lloyd Smucker, a Lancaster Republican, would bring online voter registration to Pennsylvania. Under Smucker’s plan, residents would be able to log on to their computers and register 30 days before an election. As it stands currently, residents can register to vote when they get a driver’s license or when they visit their county elections office. Forms also can be sent through the mail and are available at some public places, such as libraries. Some elections offices, including those in Washington and Greene counties, also have the appropriate form available for download. Through online registration, though, the middle man would be cut out, since all forms now have to be funneled through county elections offices before going on to Harrisburg.
If Smucker’s legislation makes it through both houses of the Legislature and is signed by Gov. Tom Corbett, Pennsylvania would join 16 other states that have either instituted online voter registration or are in the process of doing so. And it could pay dividends in voter participation. According to a study by the National Conference of State Legislatures, registration increased 9.5 percent in Arizona in the two years after online registration was introduced there in 2002.
Increasing voter participation will only make our democracy healthier and more vibrant. Online registration could help achieve that.