You have reached your limit of free articles this month.

Enjoy unlimited access to myStatesman.com

Starting at just 99¢ for 8 weeks.

GREAT REASONS TO SUBSCRIBE TODAY!

  • IN-DEPTH REPORTING
  • INTERACTIVE STORYTELLING
  • NEW TOPICS & COVERAGE
  • ePAPER
X

You have read of premium articles.

Get unlimited access to all of our breaking news, in-depth coverage and bonus content- exclusively for subscribers. Starting at just 99¢ for 8 weeks

X

Welcome to myStatesman.com

This subscriber-only site gives you exclusive access to breaking news, in-depth coverage, exclusive interactives and bonus content.

You can read free articles of your choice a month that are only available on myStatesman.com.

Commentary: Texas needs online voter registration now


“Take it online, Texas!”

This is the request from the front page of Texas.gov, the state’s official website, which provides many opportunities to do just that: renewing your driver’s license, getting a cosmetology license or even applying to carry a handgun.

But one common sense, secure, and proven option is missing: registering to vote.

The need is obvious — and I’ve see it play out firsthand. Leading up to the 2016 general election, I registered voters as part of TechVotes, a volunteer effort to increase civic engagement amongst Austin’s tech employees. I was constantly asked why folks had to show off their horrible handwriting and fill out a paper application instead of simply registering on their phone or laptop.

The answer is simple. Currently, Texas law prohibits would-be voters from registering online. The website for Texas Secretary of State, the state’s chief election officer, gives the impression that you can register online. But after you fill out the form, the website informs you that “hitting the submit button will load your information into the proper form for you to print, sign and mail.”

Fortunately, there is legislation pending in both the Texas House of Representatives and Senate to implement online voter registration across the state. Last session proved there is vast, bipartisan support for the idea: the House bill filed by Rep. Celia Israel (D-Austin) garnered a total of 76 authors and co-authors from the 150-member body that is overwhelmingly Republican.

Online voter registration is secure and accurate. Voters registering online would be required to have a Texas driver’s license or personal identification card. Therefore, online registration includes the same information on a paper application but involves a higher standard to authenticate someone’s identity.

Real-time data entry into the voter registration system would allow a voter to make immediate corrections if incorrect information was entered. Plus, voters will not be reliant on a clerk manually inputting their information from the paper registration form and the occasional human error, often resulting from sloppy handwriting.

Voters would also have an easy means of updating their registration when they move, marry or change their name. This would help to prevent many of the voter roll inaccuracies that have received news coverage in recent days.

Experts from the Texas Department of Public Safety, Department of Information Resources and secretary of state’s office all previously testified before the legislature that online voter registration would be dependable and secure. This is, after all, a proven technology. Thirty-three states and the District of Columbia have fully operational online voter registration systems. Another five states have passed legislation and are currently in the implementation stage.

Finally, online voter registration saves taxpayers money. Arizona, the first state to pass online voter registration, saw costs in its largest county reduced from 83 cents per paper application to a mere 3 cents per online registration. Closer to home, Travis County’s voter registrar, Bruce Elfant, estimates a savings of $100,000 during presidential election years, which always result in a significant uptick in registration.

Last session, the nonpartisan Legislative Budget Board estimated the cost of implementing online voter registration at a one-time state investment of only $208,000. That cost would immediately be overshadowed by savings in county voter registrars’ offices across the state.

Texans regularly do their banking, purchase airline tickets and file their income taxes over the internet. We conduct an increasing amount of our business and personal lives online — and it is time for civic life to catch up.

So let’s take it online, Texas. But this time, include voter registration.

David Edmonson is executive director of Austin Tech Alliance.



Reader Comments ...


Next Up in Opinion

Flaws in AISD’s bond decisions show need for an independent committee
Flaws in AISD’s bond decisions show need for an independent committee

TA Brown Elementary on Friday, November 4, 2016. Unstable floor leads to cancellation of classes at Brown Elementary.
Obama's secret struggle to punish Russia for Putin's election assault
Obama's secret struggle to punish Russia for Putin's election assault

WASHINGTON — Early last August, an envelope with extraordinary handling restrictions arrived at the White House. Sent by courier from the CIA, it carried "eyes only" instructions that its contents be shown to just four people: President Barack Obama and three senior aides. Inside was an intelligence bombshell, a report drawn from...
Commentary: West Texas figures out why Abbott hates on public schools
Commentary: West Texas figures out why Abbott hates on public schools

My hero this week is Graydon Hicks, Fort Davis superintendent of schools. A West Texas publication published his open letter to Gov. Greg Abbott and Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick raking them over the coals for “the lack of positive legislative action for public schools in Texas” at the most recent session, which adjourned at the end of May without...
Viewpoints: AISD Trustees should take more time to call bond election
Viewpoints: AISD Trustees should take more time to call bond election

The Austin school board on Monday is expected to call for a November election on a bond package that at least for now totals nearly $1.1 billion and is clouded by uncertainty. Trustees should delay the vote. A number of factors warrant slowing the process. Some projects the board is weighing, such as relocating Eastside Memorial High School to the...
Viewpoints: AISD trustees should take more time to call bond election
Viewpoints: AISD trustees should take more time to call bond election

The Austin school board on Monday is expected to call for a November election on a bond package that at least for now totals nearly $1.1 billion and is clouded by uncertainty. Trustees should delay the vote. Several factors warrant slowing the process. Some projects the board is weighing, such as relocating Eastside Memorial High School to the Old...
More Stories