As of Jan. 27, 2020, a total of 39 states plus the District of Columbia offer online registration, and one other state (Oklahoma) has passed legislation and is currently phasing in implementation of their online registration. 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 an Internet site, 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.
View the Nov. 12, 2013, webinar Online Voter Registration: The Bipartisan Trend in Elections for details about online voter registration, including history, implementation and security.
The Pew Charitable Trusts has two reports of note: Online Voter Registration: Trends in Development and Implementation, released in May 2015, and Understanding Online Voter Registration, released in June 2013.
Costs (and Savings) With Online Voter Registration
According to the 2010 report, Online Voter Registration: Case Studies in Arizona and Washington, Arizona experienced a reduction in per-registration costs from 83 cents per paper registration to 3 cents per online registration. Other states have also experienced significant cost savings in processing registrations.
Implementation costs have in some cases been absorbed within existing budgets, been paid for with Help America Vote Act funds or have required one-time appropriations, ranging from $250,000 to $1.8 million for more elaborate systems in larger states. See The Pew Charitable Trusts report Understanding Online Voter Registration for more detailed cost information.
For more background on online voter registration, see the April 2014 issue of NCSL's elections newsletter, The Canvass, or contact NCSL’s elections team.
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.
Read this interview with cybersecurity expert, J. Alex Halderman, as he talks about security for online registration.
New Jersey: Legislation was enacted in January 2020 to create online voter registration (SB 589).
New York: Legislation was enacted in 2019 to make New York’s online voter registration system fully electronic (AB 2005). Previously the state had an online system through the Department of Motor Vehicles that allowed for an online application experience for voters, but paper applications were still being exchanged between agencies on the back-end.
Michigan: Legislation was enacted in 2018 to create online voter registration (SB 425). The secretary of state launched the online voter registration system in December 2019.
Oklahoma: In September of 2018, Oklahoma initiated the first phase of online voter registration. Previously registered voters can update their address of residence (if it is in the same county as their previous address), mailing address or party affiliation online. Voters who are not registered must complete and submit a paper registration form. A fully online voter registration system is expected in 2020.
Idaho: Online voter registration, enacted in 2016, went live on December 6, 2017.
Florida: Online voter registration, enacted in 2015, went live on October 1, 2017.
Tennessee: Online registration was enacted in May 2016 (SB1626/HB1742) and implemented in September 2017.
Ohio: Online registration was enacted in June 2016 (SB63), to be implemented in 2017.
Idaho: Online registration was enacted in April 2016 (SB 1297).
Rhode Island: Online registration was enacted in March 2016 (SB 2513).
Wisconsin: Online registration was enacted in March 2016 (SB 295) and implemented in 2017.
Kentucky: Online registration become available in March 2016. The system was developed without specific enabling legislation.
Alabama: Online registration became available in February 2016. The system was developed without specific enabling legislation.
Iowa and New Mexico: Online voter registration systems in both states went live in January 2016. Iowa's system was developed without specific enabling legislation, and New Mexico enacted online voter registration in 2015.
Alaska: Online voter registration became available in November 2015.
Vermont: The secretary of state launched the online voter registration system in October 2015. The system was developed without specific enabling legislation.
West Virginia: Online voter registration, which was enacted in 2013, was implemented in September 2015.
Nebraska: Online voter registration, which was enacted in 2014, was implemented in September 2015.
Pennsylvania: The governor announced the launch of the online voter registration system in August 2015. The system was developed under auspices of enabling legislation passed in 2002 and codified as Pa. Stat. Title 25 sec.1324.
Hawaii: Online voter registration, which was enacted in 2012, was implemented in August 2015.
Florida: Online voter registration was enacted in May 2015 (SB 228).
Oklahoma: Online voter registration was enacted in April 2015 (SB 313).
New Mexico: Online voter registration was enacted in April 2015 (SB 643).
District of Columbia: Online voter registration was enacted in October 2014 (B20-0264).
Illinoi:: Online voter registration became available in June 2014.
Massachusetts: Legislation to create online voter registration was enacted in May 2014.
Delaware: Full online voter registration became available in April 2014.
Nebraska: Legislation to create online voter registration was enacted in March 2014.
Georgia: Online voter registration became available in March 2014.
Minnesota: Online voter registration became available in October 2013, without enabling legislation. In 2014, the legislature authorized the use of the system.
Connecticut: Online voter registration went "live" in December 2013.
Illinois, Virginia and West Virginia: Legislation to create online voter registration was enacted in 2013.
(a) Minnesota in 2013 made online voter registration available without enabling legislation but the legislature in 2014 authorized the state's system.
(b) In Missouri, residents of Columbia or Boone County can register to vote online and electronically provide a signature using a mobile device, tablet computer or touchscreen computer, but not a standard desktop computer. The state reviews the information and prints out the registration form, which it sends to the person's local elections office for verification.
(c) New York first established an online voter registration system in 2011, but the registration system at the time was not fully paperless. Voters could submit a voter registration application online, through a system run by the Department of Motor Vehicles, but paper was exchanged between the motor vehicle system and the statewide database. In 2019 AB 2005 was enacted, requiring an electronic voter registration transmittal system and creating a fully online voter registration system.
(d) In Oklahoma, the first phase of implementation allows previosuly registered voters to update their address of residence (if it is in the same county as their previous address), mailing address or party affiliation online. Voters who are not registered must complete and submit a paper registration form.
- Article from NCSL's elections newsletter, The Canvass: Online Voter Registration Grows in 2014
- NCSL's Blog, Then and Now: Growth of Online Voter Registration
- NCSL's Nov. 12, 2013 webinar, Online Voter Registration: The Bipartisan Trend in Elections.
- NCSL's State Legislatures magazine article "No Lines Online" addresses the cost savings and security concerns of implementing online voter registration.
- Data Visualization of State Online Voter Registration Systems, from the Pew Charitables Trusts, contains a variety of details on state voter registration systems currently in place, including how they were developed, features that they contain and how registrations are processed.
- NCSL's video Q&A with The Pew Charitable Trusts' David Becker on improving voter registration and maintaining voter lists
- Online Voter Registration: Trends in Development and Implementation, from The Pew Charitable Trusts, released in May 2015.
- Understanding Online Voter Registration, from The Pew Charitable Trusts, which reported in June 2013 on the 13 states that had online registration at that time.
- The U.S. Election Assistance Commission (EAC)'s Checklist for Securing Voter Registration Data.
- The Presidential Commission on Election Administration's report from January 2014 included the recommendation that states adopt online voter registration (see page 23 of the report).
- NCSL's interview with Tammy Patrick from Maricopa County on Arizona's experience with online voter registration.
- The Wisconsin Government Accountability Board's report Cost-Benefit Analysis of Implementing an Online Voter Registration System in Wisconsin
- Contact NCSL's elections staff at 303-364-7700 for more background materials