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Bill would create online voter registration system

Special to the Legal News

Published: March 20, 2013

A Columbus lawmaker has introduced a bill into the legislature that would establish an online voter registration system.

House Bill 78, sponsored by Rep. Michael Stinziano, would require the Ohio secretary of state to create a system that would allow qualified Ohioans to register to vote or change their voter registration information online.

Stinziano, a Democrat, is the former director of the Franklin County Board of Elections.

“This (bill) will boost convenience for voters and will help election boards by cutting back on data entry costs and errors,” he said.

In 2012, Stinziano said the secretary of state’s online change of address system allowed more than 106,000 voters to update their addresses but didn’t not allow others to register to vote.

If HB 78 is signed into law, Ohio would join more than a dozen other states that already offer, or will soon offer, an online registration system. The other states include Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Indiana, Kansas, Louisiana, Maryland, Nevada, Oregon, South Carolina, Utah and Washington.

An analysis of the proposed legislation states that applicants who have a current and valid Ohio driver’s license or identification card would be able to use the online system.

Applicants would have to submit information to establish their address and their qualifications to vote.

“The applicant also must attest to the truth and accuracy of the information submitted in the application under penalty of election falsification using the applicant’s Ohio driver’s license number or state identification card number as proof of the applicant’s identity,” the analysis states.

HB 78 specifies that applications submitted online would not have to contain a signature in order to be valid.

Under the bill, the secretary of state would submit completed applications to the Ohio Bureau of Motor Vehicles for the bureau to compare the application to information in its database to confirm that the applicant has a valid license or identification card.

If the bureau confirms the information, it would then return the application and a electronic copy of the applicant’s signature to the secretary of state.

The secretary of state would then forward the information to the board of elections in the applicant’s county.

Stinziano said research from the National Conference of State Legislatures has indicated that Arizona has had success with its online registration system since its creation in 2002.

“The Arizona secretary of state reports that over 70 percent of all voter registrations are now performed online and that the state saw an increase of 9.5 percent in voter registration from 2002 to 2004,” he said.

Arizona has also reported cost savings by eliminating the data entry process for state and county employees that a paper-based system requires, Stinziano said.

“The costs associated with a paper registration were 83 cents while the cost of an online registration was 3 cents, according to a 2010 Arizona report,” he said.

HB 78 would charge state agencies, especially the Ohio Department of Health, the Ohio Department of Jobs and Family Services and the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction, with providing information to the secretary of state in efforts to maintain the registration database.

The proposed legislation would allow the state to enter into agreements to share information or data with other states or groups of states as the secretary of state deems necessary.

Stinziano urged lawmakers to push HB 78 forward.

“I encourage my colleagues to support this common-sense bill,” he said.

HB 78 is co-sponsored by Reps. Michael Ashford, D-Toledo; Barbara Boyd, D-Cleveland Heights; Jack Cera, D-Bellaire; Mike Curtin, D-Columbus; Robert Hackett, R-London; Robert Hagan, D-Youngstown; Dale Mallory, D-Cincinnati; and Dan Ramos, D-Lorain.

The bill has been referred to the House Policy and Legislative Oversight Committee.

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