Let's Bring Online Voter Registration to Iowa in 2015

Giving voters the option to register online is the logical next step in bringing Iowa's voter registration system into the digital age.

October 10, 2014

Crossposted at The Des Moines Register.

The League of Women Voters of Iowa wants to make Iowa the 25th state to implement online voter registration. Iowa has long been a leader in voting, The state should take the next step to bring our registration system into the 21st century by instituting online voter registration next year.

An online voter registration system is modern, user-friendly and cost-effective. Voters register and update their registration information through a secure website accessible from any computer. Registering on the Web simplifies the process by allowing voters to enter their own information directly into the system instead of registering at an Iowa county auditor's office, waiting in line at another government agency or relying on the mail.

Online voter registration is nothing new; Arizona was the first state to have online registration in 2002. It has quickly gained national bipartisan support. In fact, 24 states currently have, or are working to implement, online voter registration, including the bordering states of Illinois, Minnesota, Missouri and, most recently, Nebraska.

Iowa is no stranger to embracing voter registration reform: The state already has three of the four components of the Brennan Center for Justice's four-pronged voter registration modernization system.

Under existing law, an Iowa voter can register to vote at the Iowa Division of Motor Vehicles and have her registration information electronically transmitted to the Iowa secretary of state for processing. Iowa's Election Day registration system allows a voter to update or correct his registration information at the polls and cast a ballot that counts.

Giving voters the option to register online is the logical next step in bringing Iowa's voter registration system into the digital age.

Reducing the reliance on paper registration forms, which can be illegible and require substantial data entry, would ease registration for voters. It would also minimize the administrative burden and save costs for state election officials, who process high volumes of registration forms, especially in the days leading up to the registration deadline and on Election Day. It would also reduce the burden on groups like the Iowa League of Women Voters, who registered over 1,000 citizens via ink-and-paper registration during the 2012 election and plan to do so again in 2014.

Iowa already took a step toward making online voter registration a reality when the state Senate passed the online voter registration bill (S.F. 2278) during the 2014 legislative session. Unfortunately, that bill did not advance in the House of Representatives.

It is encouraging that the secretary of state candidates have already supported online voter registration. We urge that this reform be at the top of the list of priorities on day one.

The League of Women Voters of Iowa, with support from the Brennan Center, urges the Iowa Legislature to pass and the governor to sign a bill instituting online voter registration during the 2015 legislative session. Doing so will ensure that all Iowans eligible to vote can easily register in time to make their voices heard in the 2016 caucuses and beyond.

THE AUTHORS:

BONNIE PITZ of Newton is the president of the League of Women Voters of Iowa.DENORA M. GETACHEW is campaign manager and legislative counsel at the Brennan Center for Justice at the New York University School of Law.