Last November, Sen. Sylvia Garcia, D-Houston, filed SB 143, which would require the state to develop an online voter registration system. This bill provides a much-needed modernization to our antiquated and complex ritual of voter registration. Simplification of this process will benefit Texans of all ages, political affiliations, geographic location and socioeconomic status.
The current voter registration system requires that an individual fill out a form that is then hand-delivered by a voter registrar to the county tax assessor’s office. The current operating system poses a multitude of scenarios that would accidentally disenfranchise voters: a registrar innocently dropping a registration card, one of thousands of paper forms misplaced at the tax assessor’s office, or a voter registrar not having enough forms on hand to register voters. The possibilities for human error aren’t technically endless, but come pretty damn close.
On top of simplification, online voter registration will save taxpayer money and volunteer time. This process will require fewer employees to manually process voter registration cards and fewer volunteer hours of deputy voter registrars’ time. Perhaps instead, the state can devote the wasted time, energy and money spent on voter registration to solving real issues, such as improving our schools or reducing crime. Instead of addressing these problems, we’re attempting to conduct a major operation of voter registration with our hands tied behind our back.
The main argument against online voter registration is potential voter fraud. Yet, at the same time, our society uses the Internet to access equally sensitive information, from prescription refills to bank account statements and money transfers to final exams on Canvas. Effective anti-fraud mechanisms have been imposed on all of the above mechanisms, so it seems ridiculous that our state legislature cannot develop a creative solution to prevent online voter fraud. If anything, it appears that transferring voter registration online will allow for the development of more effective anti-fraud mechanisms than voter registration on paper slips. 38 other states have managed to develop online voter registration — Texas has no excuse.
This process should be automated and brought to the Internet. The fact that this process is done by hand is an antiquated ritual of the past that symbolizes how poorly our legislature has adapted to the 21st century — even their website looks like it’s from 2006. Any large corporation that operated as inefficiently and old-fashioned as the Texas voting system would implode — imagine if Twitter only allowed new users to register through a mail-in registration system.
It’s time for old-fashioned voter registration to die off with travel agents, Blockbuster, and print newspapers. Our whole world is transforming to the digital era — and our state laws should do so too.
Olivia Griffin is a junior Plan II and government major from Dallas. Follow her on Twitter @oglikesdogs