The Legislature and Governor made a smart move this week to preserve Minnesota’s new online voter registration system. The Secretary of State’s office had originally rolled out the system last fall, but a judge recently ruled that it didn’t have the authority to do so without legislative approval. Thanks to quick bipartisan action, that approval has been granted and online registration will continue without interruption.
Online voter registration is a commonsense update. It’s convenient and efficient for voters and the Secretary of State’s Office alike. The online form asks voters for all of the same information as the paper forms do, so registrants are held to the same standard. They’re just typing instead of writing. In particular, younger generations stand to benefit from online voter registration.
Younger folks tend to lag in voter participation, and keeping their registration current may be made more difficult by their tendency to move more often. They’re probably more likely to use a familiar, simple online process than to find a paper form, fill it out, and mail it in.
That said, there are certainly many, many Minnesotans who do not have computer access. (Many of my MNsure clients this year came to me because they didn’t have the ability to complete an online application on their own.) Paper voter registration forms will remain an important option for a long time. They’re easy to distribute and easy to fill out. Voter registration drives may continue to use them without worrying about having sufficient computers and internet access to use the online process. Online registration is a wonderful supplement, but not a full-scale change.
Minnesota has long led the nation in voter turnout, clean elections, and accurate voting systems. The ease of registering and voting here (including our commitment to same-day registration) are important public assets. Online registration helps us stay at the front of the pack and keep Minnesotans engaged with in the electoral process.