Online voter registration has become one of the most discussed topics among state legislatures as it may reduce costs and improve government efficiency but perhaps more importantly enhance Latino and millennial engagement.

Wendy Underhill, program manager for elections at the bipartisan National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL), said online voter registration has become "the story of the year" in terms of election policy across the country.

As of Aug. 28, 28 states have authorized online registration, but only 23 of those states have fully implemented the program. Most recently, Pennsylvania became the latest state to implement online voter legislation, which may increase the 6.3 percent Latinos living in the state. According to the NCSL, Arizona has been considered as the innovator in paperless voter registration as it implemented its program in 2002. It would take six years for the next state, Washington, to implement its online program.

The Pew Charitable Trusts report on online voter registration noted some of the benefits and innovations with online registration, which may be accessed through computers and smartphones.

Nina Perales, vice president of litigation for the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund (MALDEF), a nonprofit organization advancing the civil rights of the Latino community, told Latin Post that Latinos, in general, are younger than the general population and tech-savvy. For that reason, according to Perales, online voter registration provides an opportunity to engage Latinos.

"The Latino vote becomes more important in every presidential election. We have a challenge of increasing our turnout, and if we met that challenge, the Latino vote will be even more powerful," said Perales.

The Pew report stated the benefits include multilingual services, accessibility for disabled persons, integration with local election offices and fraud prevention, but the innovations may differ per state.

Perales said a common concern is verifying the voter's true identity. Underhill explained registrants would, in most cases, need a valid driver's license because the registration will be connected to the signature provided at the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV).

Underhill noted that the security of online voter registration may not be 100-percent foolproof, but it is a topic highly discussed by legislatures. Each state's implementation of online registration may differ. Residing in Colorado, which implemented online voter registration in 2010, Underhill has utilized the state's online registration program. Although she noted most people still register when receiving their driver's license, registrants will still be asked to provide date of birth, home address and the identification number on the driver's license -- which she explained is a piece of information that should not be publicly available.

The Pew report, published in May 2015, stated no state reported a security breach with its online voter registration program.

MALDEF has worked with organizations on registering Latinos to vote. Voter registration within the Latino community has been a strong focus for many organizations such as Voto Latino, the League of United Latin American Citizens, National Council of La Raza and Rock the VoteThe Latino electorate is growing and will play a vital role in the upcoming presidential election but only if they are registered to vote. As Latin Post reported, a Latino turns 18 years old, thus eligible to register to vote, every 30 seconds.

States that have implemented online voter registration are Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut,  Delaware, Georgia, Hawaii, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Missouri, Nevada, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Utah, Virginia and Washington.

As the NCSL noted, New York's program is not 100-percent paperless. Although New York, home to 18.4 percent of Latinos -- higher than the 17.1 national rate, allows voters to submit their voter application online, paper is still exchanged between the state's database and DMV system.

Florida, Nebraska, New Mexico, Oklahoma, West Virginia and Washington, D.C. have agreed to authorize online voter registration but have yet to implement the program.


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