State Politics

Study: States did online voter registration for less than $250,000

A nationwide study released to the Times/Herald Tuesday shows that most states that have implemented online voter registration did so at a cost of $250,000 or less. The report by Pew Charitable Trusts -- which will be released to the public Wednesday -- said the average statewide cost was $249,000.

California, which has a population nearly twice the size of Florida's, spent the most: $1.8 million. That's how much money the Florida Legislature set aside, not for full implementation, but for Gov. Rick Scott's administration to begin implementation over a two-and-a-half year period. Six states in the Pew study implemented online registration for less than $100,000 each.

The Florida legislation (SB 228, by Sen. Jeff Clemens, D-Lake Worth) is on Scott's desk. He has not expressed a position on it and he has until May 22 to sign it, veto it or allow it to become law without his signature. All 67 Florida county election supervisors support online registration, but they say they have had no response to three requests to meet with the governor. The idea won overwhelming bipartisan support in the Legislature this spring.

The Pew study found that online voter registration is cheaper and more efficient than paper and that it results in more accurate voter files. The study noted that 20 states have implemented online voter registration since Arizona became the pacesetter in 2002. The latest state to begin online registration was New Mexico last month.

Several states now allow people to register or update their registrations using a mobile device. California offers online registration services in 10 languages, including Hindi, Korean, Tagalog, Thai and Vietnamese.

The study makes this conclusion: "Online voter registration is becoming an ever more efficient, convenient, and popular tool for voters and election officials as states develop increasingly effective and inclusive processes. But states are still confronting some shortcomings and challenges as they upgrade and expand their systems."

Pew said a high level of "data integration" is needed between agencies managing voter data (the agencies in Florida are highway safety and the Department of State, and that bureaucratic hurdles can exist in states where local election officials have greater autonomy (which describes the system in Florida).