HARRISBURG — It's possible in these days of instant connectivity to monitor nearly every financial, physical and social transaction using the Internet – from banking to travel, and from dieting to dinner reservations.
So should you also be able to declare yourself a legal voter in the state of Pennsylvania online as well?
State Sen. Lloyd Smucker, R-Lancaster, sponsor of a bill to create online voter registration in Pennsylvania, thinks so.
"The idea is to give additional options and provide greater convenience, and hopefully increase participation in voting," Smucker said.
Smucker said he got the idea from a constituent who wondered why Pennsylvania didn't have an online system like those used in other states.
Residents would be able to register online up to 30 days before an election. They also would be able to change their party affiliation, address or name on the online form.
A similar bill passed last session in the Senate, but the House did not follow up. Last year, debate was all about voter ID laws that wound up in state court. Opponents of the voter ID law allege that it disenfranchises voters who may not have access to a photo ID, while proponents claimed the measure prevents fraud at the polls.
Registering to vote, though, requires no such identification. Residents already can register by mail.
Smucker acknowledged that an online system does open the possibility for fraud. But to safeguard against false registrations, those who register online would be required to enter part of their Social Security number and another identification number, like a driver's license.
Ron Ruman, spokesman for the Department of State, said the governor's office hadn't crunched the numbers to find out if online registration would save the state any money. But, it might save counties filing and mailing fees, he said.
Right now, would-be voters can register when they get their state driver's license. Registration forms also are available at local libraries, lawmakers' offices and political party headquarters. But all forms have to be processed through the resident's home county before they're shipped off to the Department of State.
The National Conference of State Legislatures reports 16 states have or are implementing online voter registration. Several states found people are more likely to register if they're able to online, like in Arizona, one of the first states to adopt online registration.
"The (Arizona) secretary of state reports that over 70 percent of all voter registrations are now performed online, and that the state saw an increase of 9.5 percent in voter registrations from 2002 to 2004 with the implementation of online registration," NCSL reported.
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