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Forty-two states, Washington, D.C., and Guam offer online registration. In two of these states, Oklahoma and Maine, online registration is in the process of implementation. See the table below for details.
Online voter registration systems supplement the traditional paper-based process, by which new voters fill out a paper form that is submitted to election officials, who confirm the registration is valid and enter the information from the paper application into the registration system.
Online voter registration follows essentially the same process, but instead of filling out a paper application, the voter fills out a form via a website, and that paperless form is submitted electronically to election officials. In most states the application is reviewed electronically; if the request is confirmed to be valid, the new registration is added to the state’s voter registration list.
That validation step is done by comparing the information on the online registration form against the information provided by the same individual when he or she received a driver’s license or other state-issued identification card. The signature already on record with the state becomes the signature on record for voting. When the information does not match, the application is sent to officials for further review or action.
In most states, online voter registration systems work for people who have state-issued driver’s licenses or identification cards, although a few states provide online access for other potential voters as well. In all states, paper registration forms are available for anyone, including those who cannot register online.
Arizona was the innovator in paperless voter registration, having implemented its system in 2002. Washington followed with authorizing legislation in 2007 and implementation in 2008. Since then, more and more states have gone live with online voter registration. While most states have enacted specific legislation to authorize online voter registration, some have made online voter registration available without enabling legislation. See the table below for details.
Several approaches can and are used to ensure system security and prevent fraud or breaches by hackers.
- The registrant provides his or her driver's license number or the last four digits of a Social Security number, information that others will not have.
- Systems often include “captcha” boxes, where registrants must decode images that a computer cannot decode, to prevent hacking by programmers.
- Data is encrypted and data logs highlight unusual activity that can be investigated.
- Multi-screen systems, that offer just one question on a screen, are harder to hack.
For more on securing online voter registration systems, see these resources: