A good deal, all around
Senate Republicans and Democrats unanimously have passed a bill that will create online voter registration statewide. Pennsylvania would join 17 other states that have implemented online registration and four others that are about to do so.
The Senate bill was sponsored by Sen. Lloyd Smucker, a Lancaster Republican, who shepherded it to passage back in April. Since then, it has been awaiting action in the House State Government Committee, despite broad support from an array of organizations across the political spectrum, from the conservative Commonwealth Foundation to the American Civil Liberties Union, from the Urban League of Philadelphia to the Pennsylvania Business Council.
Online registration eliminates inconvenience as a reason for people not to register to vote. It would enable anyone to register at any time, from anywhere, on any online device. In Pennsylvania, that would include to the last second before the 30-day cutoff, prior to the next election, for voter registration. Eventually, online registration also would reduce the length of that cutoff period, ideally right to election day.
The experience in other states should be an incentive for Pennsylvania to act. According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, the average cost to the government for an online registration is 3 cents compared with 83 cents for a paper registration, because it saves staff time, materials and the costs of correcting mistakes.
Online systems combat fraud because registrants provide driver's license or Social Security numbers that are checked against existing databases to prevent duplicate registrations.
The state Department of State, which administers election systems, has online registration ready to go. The House should pass the bill so that the system will be available as soon as possible.