Online voter registration is not a new concept, but one Texas representative hopes to make it new to the Lone Star State with a bill aiming to make electronic registration happen this year, or at least before he leaves office at the beginning of 2015.
Democratic State Representative Mark Strama announced recently that he would be leaving the state house after his two-year term is up at the start of 2015, but as the founder of an online voter registration company, told us that he hopes to pass this legislation before he leaves office. Strama founded NewVoter.com, which he said registered more than 700,000 voters for the 2000 election.
House Bill 313 aims to amend Texas’ election code by allowing those with a valid driver’s license or ID card to register to vote online. This would be accomplished by a process similar to those in other states: obtaining a digital copy of the applicant’s signature from the Department of Public Safety for verification.
Strama does sit on the International Trade & Intergovernmental Affairs committee, but told Politic365 that his interest in this issue was renewed when speaking to the Travis County Tax Assessor for its efficiency, accuracy and low cost. Although previous attempts to implement online voter registration were pushed by Representative Scott Hochberg, for example, Strama told us that its implementation is feasible in the short-term.
“The current voter registration process in Texas presents a few technical obstacles that need to be worked through, such as making sure that computer systems at DPS and the Secretary of State’s office can communicate with one another to provide a reliable process for signature verification,” he explained.
Online voter registration, after all, has been implemented in more than a dozen states, Strama told Politic365. States as liberal as California and as conservative as South Carolina have passed online voter registration bills, it is not a partisan issue, he said, and in Texas the process could increase voting roll accuracy and save county elections offices money.
“Online voter registration is a comfortable model for younger voters, and for many Texans with disabilities, online voter registration could make the difference between participation and disenfranchisement,” he said. “[It] increases voter participation while increasing the accuracy of our voter rolls by reducing human error associated with manual data entry, the mishandling of paper forms, and the misinterpretation of illegible voter registration cards.”
Strama announced on his blog a few weeks ago that he would be leaving the Texas legislature, but told Politic365, “My hope is to have this particular issue resolved before I leave here so that my only future involvement with it will be directing people to the website where they can register themselves to vote.”
Latino voters in particular may benefit from online voter registration in Texas, given that they are the largest minority group in Texas, are largely underrepresented as registered voters and over-index on social media sites that could be used to promote online voter registration. But Strama declined to speak specifically to the value of online voting for Latinos in the state.
“Of course, the future of my political party in Texas is tied to whether or not Hispanic voters make it to the polls and the decisions they make when they get there, but that is not what this bill is about, nor should it be. HB 313 is about using technology to increasing the access that Texans have to their government, saving our counties valuable time and resources, and enhancing the integrity of our basic democratic processes,” Strama told Politic365.
“How the bill affects any particular segment of voters will depend on organizing efforts to mobilize that segment of voters, creating an opportunity for Latinos, or any other group, to increase their voter turnout.”