April 26, 2015

With Presidential Campaign Season Officially Underway, Gillibrand and Good Gov’t Groups Push for National Online Voter Registration System: Modernizing Country’s Outdated Registration System Would Expand Voting Access to Almost 100 Million Eligible Voters

Nearly Half the Nation Unable to Register to Vote Online, New York State Currently Ranked 47th In the Nation in Voter Registration

New York, NY – With the 2016 presidential campaign season officially underway, U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand was joined today by executives from the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law, Common Cause New York, the League of Women Voters of New York City and the New York Public Interest Research Group (NYPIRG) and social activist, Russell Simmons in announcing federal legislation that would create a national online voter registration system to bring the election process into the 21stcentury by allowing every eligible voter in the country to register to vote online. Currently, an estimated 99 million eligible voters, or nearly half of eligible voters in the nation do not have access to register to vote online.

In 2012, 62 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.

Under Gillibrand’s proposal, 25 states without an online registration system would be required to establish one. In the 25 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.

“Voting is one of our most sacred rights as Americans,” said Senator Gillibrand. “Instead of adding new burdens, we should make voting easy for millions of people. Bringing our nation’s antiquated voter registration system into the 21st century is common sense and saves money. We must ensure that all states have secure online voter registration in order to make every voice heard at the ballot box.”

“America needs to change the way it thinks about voter registration,” said Michael Waldman, president of the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law. “We do so many things online. Registering to vote should be no different. New technology can add millions of citizens to the rolls and ensure no one loses the right to vote. If you’re an eligible voter, you should be a registered voter, period.”

“It’s time to harness technology to assist in improving voter registration,” said Susan Lerner, Common Cause/NY. “Registering to vote should be just as simple as buying something online. This legislation will help boost voter participation and increase the accuracy and efficiency of election administration. We applaud Senator Gillibrand for her leadership in facilitating voter registration and helping states save money through the smart use of available technology.”

“New York State is proud to be at the forefront of online voter registration by allowing citizens to register or change registration through the Department of Motor Vehicles,” said Melissa del Valle Ortiz, President, LWV of the City of NY. “We applaud Senator Gillibrand for her efforts to require online voter registration across the country and further enhance accessibility of online registration in New York State. Voter participation can only be increased with easier and expanded access to online voter registration.”

"In this day and age, there's no legitimate reason to require potential voters to track down, complete and mail back voter registration forms when they could simply register online," said Rebecca J. Weber, Executive Director of NYPIRG. "Our antiquated paper registration system keeps too many college students, young people and other eligible voters off the rolls. Senator Gillibrand's bill would bring an effective and cost efficient system to New York and the rest of the country and NYPIRG urges it's passage."

"It's important that we make the ability to register to vote seamless and digital," said Russell Simmons, social activist, hip hop pioneer and founder of Rush Communications one of the largest African American owned media companies in the country. "I applaud Senator Gillibrand for leading this effort to bring the voter registration process into the 21st Century. This legislation will benefit all, especially historically disenfranchised members of urban communities by providing easier access to voter registration."

Currently, there are 25 states that do not have any online voter registration system. Half the country – 21 states – has some form of online voter registration system, and an additional four states have passed legislation creating online registration, which have yet to be implemented.

As of 2012, New York ranked as one of the country’s lowest states in voter registration and voter turnout. The state ranks 47th in the nation in voter registration, with less than 64 percent of eligible residents registered to vote. Only 53.6 percent of eligible New York voters cast their ballots in 2012. That same year, New York State moved to allow voters with a driver’s license or state-issued ID to register to vote online through the New York State Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV). Election officials verify voter’s eligibility by checking the individual’s personal information, such as date of birth, social security, address, and license document number.

In an effort to bring the election process into the 21st century and expand online access to millions of voters in New York, and across the nation, Gillibrand’s legislation, called the Voter Registration Modernization Act, would require dozens of states to set up an online registration system on an official public website, led by the state’s chief election official, allowing all eligible voters to register online. States with existing online registration would expand their system beyond those with state-issued IDs to allow more young people, seniors, minorities, and the poor – groups who have a hard time attaining or renewing state-issued IDs – to access and update their own voter records online.

Under this proposal, voters who don’t have a signature on file with the DMV would be able to provide an electronic signature. All states, including New York, would be required to establish security measures and would determine the verification process for the new online program.