PA embraces online voter registration

Courtesy photo Pennsylvania Department of State Secretary Pedro Cortes (center) unveils the new online voter registration portal on Aug. 27 as Gov. Tom Wolf (left) observes.

Courtesy photo
Pennsylvania Department of State Secretary Pedro Cortes (center) unveils the new online voter registration portal on Aug. 27 as Gov. Tom Wolf (left) observes.

By Kaye Burnet | News Editor

In the two weeks since Pennsylvania launched its online voter registration portal, more than 7,000 Pennsylvanians have used the website to register or alter their registration information, according to Wanda Murren, press secretary for the Pennsylvania Department of State.

The new service launched Aug. 27 and allows Pennsylvania residents to register at www.register.votespa.com. Previously, potential voters had to mail in paper forms to their county’s election board or fill out their information at a Department of Transportation location while renewing their driver’s licenses.

Murren said the new service is an attempt to better serve the 2 million eligible but unregistered potential voters that live in Pennsylvania.

“We hope that it gets more of everyone involved,” Murren said.

Murren said young adults are underrepresented when it comes to voter registration, and that physically mailing in paper forms is unappealing to them.

“Young people are so accustomed to doing everything online,” Murren said.

Anna Lampe, a 19-year-old psychology and Spanish major, said she thinks the online registration option will encourage more young adults to register.

Lampe registered to vote in Allegheny County last year when she got her driver’s license renewed. Before that, she had considered registering but had not filled out the paper form.

“I had it and was going to fill it out and send it in,” Lampe said. “But I was just being lazy and didn’t do it.”

Ty Sweeney, a 20-year-old political science and integrated marketing communications major, volunteers for the Bernie Sanders presidential campaign. Part of his role, he explained, is to encourage students to vote.

“Being able to register online makes my job 80 percent easier,” Sweeney said.

According to Sweeney, online registration is the “biggest step” that’s been made to encourage more young adults to vote.

“With the old system, you had to go somewhere or mail something, which are two things young people refuse to do,” Sweeney said.

Robert Schwanbeck, a senior economics major and former president of Duquesne chapter of the Young Americans for Liberty, called the new service “a double-edged sword.”

He said the new registration would probably get young adults involved, but he also had concerns about the security of people’s personal information if registrations happen online. Like the current paper form, the online form asks registrants to provide their driver’s license numbers or the last four digits of their social security numbers.

“You have to worry about meta-data being accessed by cyber-hackers,” Schwanbeck said.

Murren explained that the new service builds off the same digital programming that allows Pennsylvanians to register through computers at PennDOT locations, and therefore has the same protections and format that’s been used by county election boards for a decade.

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