Editorial: Improving access

Last week, Connecticut took an important step in making the right to vote accessible to more people by embarking on a statewide online voter registration system.

Already in Wilton several new voters have taken advantage of the process and the registrars of voters office reports it has worked seamlessly.

This new system will make the first hurdle to casting a ballot — registration — that much easier to surmount.

While registering for the first time is seen as a rite of passage by many, including 18-year-olds and new citizens, it can be a challenge for those who work or are away at school when town offices are open or who lack the means to get to town hall. This is especially true for those who live in Connecticut’s cities and larger towns. While there is a mail-in process, that has its pitfalls as well.

Using the Internet also simplifies the process for people who simply want to make a change to their registration. Perhaps they want to align with a political party so they may participate in a primary. Or maybe they just need to register a change of address.

The online process does not just involve filling out a form. Potential voters must have a driver’s license, learner’s permit or non-driver ID on file with the state motor vehicle department. They must also meet other eligibility requirements.

Online voter registration is not new. Arizona pioneered the paperless process in 2002. As of this month, 15 states offer online registration and four more have passed legislation but have yet to implement the process, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL).

With proper data encryption, the system will be secure from hacking. As for making sure you are who you say you are, the online form requires registrants to fill out their driver’s license or non-driver ID number. This information is then captured electronically from the Department of Motor Vehicles and the registrant’s signature appears on the form. The online form is transferred to the secretary of the state’s office and shortly thereafter appears in the registrars’ inbox.

When voters go to their polling place, they must present identification that shows name and address, name and signature or name and photo, helping to ensure voter verification.

The online process also helps cut down on errors that can result from handwritten mail-in forms that may be difficult for registrars to decipher. This actually results in making it more difficult to ensure voting privileges if an application is imperfect in any way.

Online registration is a long way from online voting. There are many — including all three of Wilton’s state legislators — who oppose casting ballots via the Internet for now. But online registration is a good move for Connecticut.