Department of the Absurd: It's Illegal to Register to Vote Online

You can do almost anything online in California, except register to vote.

The state is supposed to be creating a system for such registration -- but after delays, it's not expected to be completed until 2015 at the earliest.

Dean Logan, the top elections official of Los Angeles County, and some members of the legislature say this is too long to wait.

Logan wrote a San Francisco Chronicle op-ed this week with a leading academic expert on voting, R. Michael Alvarez of Caltech, in favor of legislation, Senate Bill 397, which would give counties the freedom to develop their own online voter registration system.

Any citizen who already has a California driver's license or other state identification card could register to vote this way.

Currently though, according to SB 397, "(the) law prohibits any person from being registered as a voter except by affidavit of registration and requires that the affidavit be mailed or delivered to the county elections official."

Online voter registration saves money, can increase the accuracy of voter lists and speeds up and streamlines the application process, according to a study by the Pew Center on the States, which looked at programs in Arizona and Washington.

Plus, online registration is hugely popular, with 90 percent of survey respondents saysing the system was easy to use and 70 percent saying they would register online if they needed to do so in the fuiture.  

California has one of the lowest voter registration rates among the U.S. states, with more than 6 million Californians who are eligible to vote choosing not to register.

So who would oppose online registration?

On the left, many critics of electronic voting -- which was blamed for problems in elections around the country during the past decade, are wary of online registration. And on the right, many voices oppose any measure that makes it easier for people to vote; the calculation is that those who might gain most by expanding access to the vote are more likely to vote for Democrats.

There is so little evidence of voter registration fraud in California that neither of these objections should be taken seriously. Online voter registration is long overdue.

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