Lawmakers in the Michigan House recently passed HB 4539 and 4540, which together lay out the principles to allow for the electronic submission of voter registration applications. The change would allow for citizens with access to the Internet to register online by filling out a form similar to the paper form, and signing electronically. The form is then automatically printed at the local clerk’s office. Arizona was the first to implement online voter registration in 2003, followed by Washington in 2008, with six other states following last year. Other states have proposed similar legislation, and online registration continues to grow in popularity. In Arizona, 25% of all new voter registrations took place online in its first year and within a few years that number reached 70%. Michigan is expected to see similar numbers. The bills are currently headed to the Senate for further review.
This new legislation has several clear aims. The costs associated with online registrations are significantly lower than paper forms. Arizona spends nearly 83 cents processing each paper voter registration form while their online voter registrations may be completed with a cost of only 3 cents. Postage for delivery and receipt is not necessary with online registration because the form is immediately and automatically printed off at the clerk’s office after the registrant submits online. The registrant then has the option to print off a copy on their printer for personal records. This process would also cut down the amount of information that needs to be manually entered from paper forms, which would help prevent errors. Michigan in particular experienced difficulties with third-party form falsification last fall with groups like ACORN. Michigan hopes to eliminate such risks by taking the registration forms out of those group’s hands and giving voters this simple and streamlined way of registering.