Online Voter Registration: Accessible for All?
January 14, 2016
By: Rose Clouston, National Coordinator for the Legal Mobilization Project, Brendan Downes, Associate Counsel for the Voting Rights Project, and Jennifer L. Patin, Writer/Editor for the Voting Rights Project
As of January 2016, 29 states and the District of Columbia have online voter registration (OVR) systems. Two additional states are set to launch OVR in the near future. While OVR represents an important advancement in our democracy, its convenience and accessibility in most states benefit Americans who tend to be wealthier and whiter than the population at large. This is because the majority of states offering OVR require voters to provide a state-issued DMV ID number (most commonly from a driver’s license) in order to complete the process entirely online. Those who lack driver’s licenses—a population that is disproportionately Black, Latino, and low-income—must print, sign, and mail completed applications to local elections officials.
A handful of states have developed OVR systems that provide for alternative methods of verifying an applicant’s identity and signature. This brief highlights the practices of those states with OVR systems that are fully accessible to all eligible voters, regardless of whether they possess a driver’s license, and encourages other states to adopt similar systems.