Secretary of State
On Sept. 26 the Office of the Minnesota Secretary of State launched an online voter registration tool that was developed and driven by the goal to deliver a safe, secure and less expensive method for voters to register to vote.
I am proud of the positive response the system has generated, underscored by more than 1,500 applications submitted since the roll-out — demonstrating the enthusiasm and action of Minnesotans when it comes to participating in our democracy.
Every election year Minnesota leads the nation in voter turnout. This is something we can take great pride in. Our voters deserve to have the tools that make the registration and Election Day process more convenient. Online voter registration was the next logical step in modernizing our voter outreach efforts and is a service that Minnesotans expect and appreciate in today’s technology-driven age. This new tool joins a series of other innovative web-based applications that help voters find their polling place; look up registration or absentee ballot status; view a sample ballot; and request an absentee ballot if in the military or working overseas.
Just as important as making the registration more convenient for voters, online voter registration delivers a great taxpayer benefit. In Arizona, where online voter registration has been used for more than a decade, officials have reported costs going from 83 cents to 3 cents per registration.
In a big election year in Minnesota, when more than 800,000 registrations are processed, online registration will result in huge savings to county governments. These savings, as well as time savings and the reduction in voter roster errors are the main reasons local election officials have been calling for this tool for years and are now applauding it.
Another advantage of online registration is the security. Consider the current process, where voters hand over personal information on paper registration forms to contractors for canvassing political groups. In these instances, the voter has no way of knowing how their information is being used or shared. In contrast, the new tool allows voters to submit information from the privacy of their own home in a secure online environment that was tested thoroughly and developed with security as the top priority. Further enhancing the security of the new tool, voters are required to provide an identification number that has to match other government databases for the registration to be accepted. If the number is not an exact match, the registration is rejected, preventing the submission of fraudulent applications.
The Office of the Secretary of State has had the authority to accept digital filings since 2000 when the Legislature decided that electronic signatures were the equivalent to those hand-written. It’s important to stress that electronic voter registration information has been successfully digitally transferred and used for many years. People registering by checking a box on their driver’s license application have their information relayed digitally to the counties for review and processing. The online voter registration system collects the same information and follows the same verification process as the driver’s license and paper registration procedure.
There are 35 municipalities and more than 100 school districts holding elections on Nov. 5. I encourage Minnesota voters to check out all of our online tools at MnVotes.org to prepare for Election Day 2013 and for future elections.
Mark Ritchie is Minnesota’s Secretary of State.