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Ohio Needs Automatic and On-Line Registration, New Report Shows

A Brennan Center for Justice report, released today, calls attention to the urgent need for automatic and on-line voter registration in Ohio. The report also shows that it is eminently possible to implement voter registration modernization in Ohio now.

November 7, 2009







Bold New Reform Effort Already Underway

For Immediate Release, November 6, 2009
Contact:          Jeanine Plant-Chirlin, 212–998–6289
                      Susan Lehman, 212–998–6318 

New York—A Brennan Center for Justice report, released today, calls attention to the urgent need for automatic and on-line voter registration in Ohio. The report also shows that it is eminently possible to modernize the voter registration system in Ohio now.

The report bolsters the findings by the Ohio House Ethics and Elections Committee, which this week voted to include automatic and online voter registration in a key election reform bill, HB260, currently moving through the legislature.

Ohio is part of the growing bipartisan consensus for modernizing voter registration. This year, Delaware implemented an automatic system to update voter rolls. A dozen states now use on-line registration; eight states make use of permanent registration; and, an additional eight states have Election Day Registration. If Ohio adopts HB 260, the Buckeye State will be at the forefront of this national movement of election administration reform in the states.

“Congress should seize on this momentum and pass legislation to modernize voter registration,” said Wendy Weiser, Director of the Voting Rights and Elections Project at the Brennan Center for Justice. “It will make voter rolls more accurate and save millions of dollars.”

“The Ohio Legislature is taking the necessary critical steps that should provide long term solutions to Ohio’s most pressing voter registration problems,” said Lawrence Norden, Brennan Center Senior Counsel. “Starting with Ohio’s historic election summits convened by Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner, this is a huge step forward.”

Among the report’s findings:

  • There is widespread agreement that Ohio’s current voter registration system is plagued with problems and in urgent need of repair; 
  • Automatic and online registration would dramatically improve the accuracy of voter rolls, reduce costs and inefficiency, increase registration rates, and reduce problems at the polls;
  • Automatic and online registration would save state and county boards substantial amounts of money by eliminating costly processing of paper records, duplicative data entry, and time-consuming efforts to resolve errors;
  • Automatic registration and online registration would save Ohio millions of dollars each year in election administration costs by eliminating a tremendous amount of unnecessary paperwork. In Maricopa County, Arizona, for example, processing an online registration costs an average of 3 cents, as compared to 83 cents for a paper application;
  • Both automatic and online registration are feasible in Ohio, building on the tools already in place.  The technology is in place, and the BMV and social service agencies already collect all the information necessary for election officials to determine voter eligibility.

Ohio’s current election reform bill, HB260, adopts many of the recommendations made in Mr. Norden’s Framework for Reform. The recommendations in that report stem from a bipartisan workgroup of election officials, county commissioners and voting rights advocates and Ohio’s historic election summits of 2008 and 2009, chaired by Mr. Norden.

On October 5, 2009, Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner and a bipartisan Elections Enhancement Workgroup released a report to the Ohio House of Representatives recommending revisions to HB 260. The Secretary’s report—which also drew from Norden’s Framework for Reform—spearheaded the campaign for automatic and online voter registration in HB260.

The Brennan Center’s proposed federal plan to modernize voter registration would simplify the registration process and bring as many as 65 million eligible Americans into the electoral process. To read more about it, click here.

For more information or to set up an interview with Lawrence Norden, please contact Jeanine Plant-Chirlin at 212–998–6289 or