Gov. Tom Wolf announced today that he’s making it easier to vote by implementing online voter registration in the state.
Citing that 22 other states in the U.S. already have similar programs, Wolf says that the online voter registration or OVR “is about making the voting experience more convenient and more accessible.” The governor went on to say that OVR “is about giving citizens an easier way to exercise their right to vote” and insists the program is “secure.”
This being Pennsylvania, the move isn’t without some degree of controversy. Earlier this year, Republican legislators expressed consternation at the idea, citing concerns about voter fraud.
The Brennan Center for Justice at the New York University School of Law points out that while “allegations of election-related fraud make for enticing press,” those claims “often prove greatly exaggerated.” In fact, the Brennan Center flatly says claims of widepsread voter fraud “simply do not pan out” when looking at the actual data.
Writing for The Washington Post, the author of the Brennan Center’s report, Loyola Law School professor Justin Levitt, explains that out of one billion ballots cast between 2000 and 2014, there were only 31 legitimate findings of voter fraud.
A Pew Charitable Trusts study earlier this year found that in other OVR systems nationwide, no states using such systems reported any security breaches.
Despite some questions about whether his office has the authority to move unilaterally without legislative approval, Wolf believes that the 2002 Voting Registration Act grants the executive branch that authority.
More specifically, Secretary of State Pedro Cortés explains that the executive branch already has the ability and authority to register electronically by way of registration via driver’s licenses and state I.D. systems.
“As elsewhere, Pennsylvanians have grown accustomed to doing business online, whether it is shopping, banking, or filing their tax returns,” Cortés says. “As a natural extension, they want the convenience of registration to vote using their own computer or mobile device. Online voter registration makes the process more accessible and accurate.”
Folks registering who don’t have a driver’s license or PennDOT I.D. card “will be able to print, sign, and mail the completed online application to their county voter registration office,” adds Wolf’s office. “If they are not able to print the application, they may request that the Department of State mail them a signature card to complete and return to their county office.”