Web registering may shake up voter rolls in California 

click to enlarge Party split: Shifting voter registration to the Web “would be an amazing tool for us,” said Kelsey McQuaid of the California College Democrats, who said it would encourage young people to vote. GOP lawmakers largely oppose the measure, citing security concerns. (Getty Images file photo) - PARTY SPLIT: SHIFTING VOTER REGISTRATION TO THE WEB “WOULD BE AN AMAZING TOOL FOR US,” SAID KELSEY MCQUAID OF THE CALIFORNIA COLLEGE DEMOCRATS, WHO SAID IT WOULD ENCOURAGE YOUNG PEOPLE TO VOTE. GOP LAWMAKERS LARGELY OPPOSE THE MEASURE, CITING
  • Party split: Shifting voter registration to the Web “would be an amazing tool for us,” said Kelsey McQuaid of the California College Democrats, who said it would encourage young people to vote. GOP lawmakers largely oppose the measure, citing
  • Party split: Shifting voter registration to the Web “would be an amazing tool for us,” said Kelsey McQuaid of the California College Democrats, who said it would encourage young people to vote. GOP lawmakers largely oppose the measure, citing security concerns. (Getty Images file photo)

Registering to vote might soon be as easy as placing an online order for a pizza with all the fixings.

A bill by state Sen. Leland Yee could push millions more Californians to vote, and save the state millions of dollars by moving voter registration to the Web.

The measure was approved by the state Legislature in September and is awaiting a signature or veto by Gov. Jerry Brown, who has not indicated how he views the legislation.

About 6.5 million eligible California residents are not registered to vote and could benefit from the program. But online registration could be a major draw for one notably left-leaning and underregistered demographic — young adults.

Kelsey McQuaid, communications director for California College Democrats, said the predominant reason college students give for not registering to vote is that they don’t have enough time to stop at registration stands on campus and complete the paperwork.

“If there’s a link we can post saying, ‘Here’s the secretary of state’s website, here’s where you can register to vote; it’s easy, it will take you two minutes — fill it out between classes,’ that would be an amazing tool for us,” McQuaid said.

California Republicans largely oppose the measure. California GOP Chairman Tom Del Beccaro said the danger of fraud associated with online registration outweighs any benefits.

“The right to vote is an incredibly precious right and we should safeguard it at all times,” Del Beccaro said. “We have enough problems with our voter rolls as it is.”

But Yee said the reform has potential to help create a “truly representative democracy” and produce a clearer image of the state’s voting public. “We really want as many individuals to participate in the democratic process as possible,” Yee said. “It makes our government a lot more vibrant.”

The measure is modeled after programs in Washington and Arizona, which are among at least seven states nationwide that have taken similar action.

Brown has until Oct. 9 to take action on the legislation. His office declined comment on what action the governor would take.

Startup makes its case for e-signatures

A San Jose startup’s effort to use electronic signatures for ballot petitions has stalled, but the company is finding other ways to bridge the gap between elections and technology.

In June, an appellate court sided with San Mateo County and said county officials did not have to accept ballot petition signatures submitted electronically by Verafirma.

Co-founder Jude Barry said the company plans to continue pursuing e-signatures for petitions, although he declined to comment on its next move.

“We think it’s the way of the future,” Barry said.

Much of the company’s focus right now is on a voter registration platform that allows users to register online by using a touchscreen device, such as a smartphone or tablet computer, that can capture their signature. So far, the program is only live in Santa Clara County, which approved its use in May 2010.

The program differs from legislation on Gov. Jerry Brown’s desk in one major way. The pending legislation would link voter registration information to signatures on file with the Department of Motor Vehicles, while Verafirma’s program is capable of collecting its own signatures.

“That begs the question, why isn’t everyone else doing this?” Barry said.

Verafirma is pitching its system county by county including San Francisco, where Barry said talks are in the preliminary stage.

However, he added that the company is not likely to go for the jugular and seek state support for the program. Company officials tried that once a few years ago without success, he said.

“We don’t have a lot of confidence they are able to understand the value of this technology,” Barry said.

sgantz@sfexaminer.com

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