Rooted in common sense
Given the polarization and political fisticuffs in Washington, which also often characterize governance in Pennsylvania, it was heartening this week to see advocates from across the political spectrum endorse a major, overdue change to the commonwealth's voter registration system.
The Senate already has passed a bill to authorize online voter registration, which should be second-nature in the computer age. The House has not yet moved on the proposal.
From the Commonwealth Foundation and the Pennsylvania Business Council on the right, to the Keystone Research Center and Urban League on the left, advocates rallied Tuesday at the Capitol to enact a new law by the end of the legislative year so that online registration will be available for next year's gubernatorial, legislative and congressional elections.
Online registration creates a number of advantages. It reduces the costs of election administration for county governments. Because voters directly enter their own information into the system, the data tend to be more accurate than if entered by clerks. It also enables people to register up to the very last minute of the registration deadline.
Broad consensus on modern registration also should build consensus on a broader overhaul to increase the efficiency of election systems and eliminate the notion of in-person vote fraud that some politicians have used as an excuse to suppress voting through the needless and draconian voter identification law.
State government computer systems can be used to register people to vote automatically when they engage the government for other services. And the database could be used automatically to register people in the proper jurisdiction when they move.
Every now and then an initiative rooted in common sense rises above the partisan divide. That's the case with online registration, and it should become the case for comprehensive reform that increases efficiency, encourages participation and makes in-person vote fraud even more unlikely.