Washington D.C. – U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) released the following statement today in recognition of National Voter Registration Day. With only half the nation currently allowed to register to vote online, Gillibrand has introduced federal legislation that would modernize the country’s online voter registration system and bring the election process into the 21st century by allowing every eligible voter in the country to register online. Currently, 46.5 percent of eligible voters, or 100 million people, do not have access to online registration, according to estimates from the Congressional Research Service. In 2012, 33 million eligible voters nationwide were not registered to vote, according to the Census Bureau. Gillibrand’s Voter Registration Modernization Act would help expand voting access to millions of Americans by requiring all states to allow eligible voters to register online to vote and update their information electronically, saving states millions of dollars.
“Voting is one of our most sacred rights as Americans. Exercising this most basic and cherished act of our democracy should be encouraged, not discouraged. But at a time when a majority of Americans use the internet in every aspect of their daily lives – from banking, to paying bills, shopping, and even taking college classes – it is mind boggling that only half of our nation is able to register to vote online.
“As of today, with an election looming in November, an estimated 100 million people, or 46.5 percent of eligible voters, are without access to an easy and convenient way to register to vote and make their voices heard. It is time for our voting system to enter the 21st century by allowing every eligible voter in this nation to register online. This is a simple and effective idea whose time has come for the 23 states that do not have an online registration system and would save millions by saving time and increasing efficiency.
“When I hear that in 2012, 33 million eligible voters nationwide were not registered to vote, I say we have to do better. Because our antiquated election system is badly in need of modernization if we want every voter to have their voice heard. The status quo only serves to keep voters across our country away from the polls.
“Instead of placing burdens on potential voters, we should make the process of registering to vote easy for millions of people. As a member of the Senate, it is my duty to ensure that every American is able to exercise their right to vote. We can take a giant leap forward by embracing modern technology to bring the system out of the dark ages and ensure that registering to vote isn’t any more difficult than paying your bills.
“I am proud to be joined in this effort by the Brennan Center for Justice, National League of Women Voters, National Action Network, OurTime, and Rock the Vote to encourage full participation in our democracy.”
Under Gillibrand’s proposal, the 23 states without any online registration system would be required to establish one. In the 23 states that already have some form of online registration, which includes New York, Gillibrand’s bill would strengthen those online systems by expanding enrollment access to all eligible voters whether or not they have a state-issued ID. This would allow more young people, seniors, minorities, and low income voters – groups less likely to have state-issued ID’s – to access and update their voter records online. An additional 4 states have passed legislation creating online registration, which have yet to be implemented.
Gillibrand has also introduced a bill in the Senate authored by Civil Rights icon Rep. John Lewis called the Voter Empowerment Act, which would modernize our election system, ensure equal access to the ballot box, and crack down on voter suppression.