Congress Starts Pushing Voter Registration Modernization

Twelve days ago without a lot of fanfare and perhaps overshadowed by the MOVE Act enactment, the House took a small step forward in pushing a modest voter registration modernization initiative when Congressman Kevin McCarthy, who is the most senior Republican on the House Administration Subcommittee on Elections, introduced the Responsible Online Voter Empowerment Registration Act (H.R. 4449).

Of course, those looking over the innovation horizon will always return to the same question of whether voter registration shouldn’t be an opt-out verses an opt-in matter.  I’ll leave that policy food fight for others, but will point out that there can be no “Frankenswitch” solution to modernizing voter registration.  In other words, even if more aggressive voter modernization initiatives are to succeed — such as declaring every citizen who attains the age of majority in their State as de-facto registered to vote unless they otherwise opt-out,  there will be a need to manage one’s registration details and status.  And that will, for some time to come, require the appropriate technology to do so.  In a digital age, that means online services, which brings us back to Representative McCarthy’s legislation introduced on Wednesday the 13th.

Rep. McCarthy introduced this legislation to increase states’ online voter registration services without compromising existing safeguards that protect against fraud.  Congressman McCarthy issued the following statement:

In an era of unprecedented technology, I am pleased that we could work with election officials across the country to produce a solution that will provide incentives for states to implement online registration programs that will increase accuracy, protect against fraud and reduce administrative costs.  As Americans utilize more technology in their daily lives, it is important that the systems that are used to elect our official representatives at all levels stay up-to-date to allow all voters to let their voices be heard on election day.

H.R 4449 provides incentives for States to implement online registration services that should (the Congressman’s web site reports “will” and we’d be inclined to agree, but prefer to wait and see due to some of the potential complications of the clerical processes involved) increase the accuracy of registration records, reduce the administrative costs associated with data entry, and protect against the processing of fraudulent registrations by requiring voter eligibility and identity verification.

Kewl.  For those who’ve been paying closer attention, you’ll recognize those points from many of our writings in recent months.  We applaud the Congressman’s initiative and hope it comes out of Committee and reaches the House floor for a vote.  Its a small, but necessary step in the direction of modernizing one of the most important components of America’s aging elections technology framework.

Now, if we could only get Congress to acknowledge that the Nation’s elections technology is tantamount to critical democracy infrastructure (our words) and as such, should be open, transparent, publicly owned technology.  That’s another step for another day; easier to take once there stuff that people can see, touch, and try.


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