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Texas

Ahead of Election Day, the Campaign for Online Voter Registration Continues

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Photo courtesy flickr.com/sarowen
A widely circulated email has Texas voters worried their voter registration may have lapsed.

Today is the deadline to register to vote in the Nov. 4 local, state and federal elections.

More than a decade ago, around 80 percent of the state's voting age population registered to vote, but now that's closer to 70 percent.

While some argue online voter registration could boost turnout, others worry about the security risks and the chance to give the “other” party a leg up at the ballots.

Online voter registration isn't a new idea around the country, or even in Texas.
19 states allow it, with Arizona beginning the trend in 2002. Texas lawmakers filed bills to make Texas the 20th state in 2013, but none came up for a vote.

The House Elections Committee was charged with taking another look at the idea this spring. The Pew Charitable Trusts’ David Becker was at a hearing in May touting the benefits of online voter registration.

"In our research, one of the most important reforms to come around has been online voter registration. It is one of those rare win-wins in government,” he said. “It not only leads to more accurate rolls and creates more convenience for voters and election officials alike; it also saves a ton of money.”

But, as with any shift from the familiar to the digital, some lawmakers worry about the downsides of online registration, and wonder if it may help the “other” party. Becker said their research shows that in states that allow it, the party breakdown of those registering online mirrors the state's Republican-Democratic split. Rep. Stephanie Klick gave voice to the other major concern: security. Klick said Social Security numbers, driver’s license number and other sensitive documents could become targets for online security threats.

“[I]t's a very good concern that you are raising. And of course it's a concern that relates to paper as well,” Becker said. “I mean you could bring a stack of paper voter registration forms and anyone could do it really. And just start collecting all of that information and start putting it into your own data base.”

Democrats are expected to once again file bills to allow online registration in the 2015 legislative session, but it could take a Republican-led bill to see the idea make any progress.

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