Guest op-ed: Making voter registration simpler and more secure

October 19, 2018 5:19 am
dmv and tree

(Nevada Current file photo)

This year voters will consider whether to make voter registration automatic for eligible citizens at the Department of Motor Vehicles, a change that will improve access to the ballot box while protecting the accuracy and integrity of our voter rolls. Automatic Voter Registration, on the ballot as Question 5 and endorsed by the League of Women Voters of Nevada, would improve accessibility, accuracy, and security by modernizing the system.

Today, there are several ways to register to vote in Nevada, including filling out an online application or visiting an Elections Department office in person, but one of the most common is to use a clipboard-and-paper based application form. Political parties and advocacy groups often use the paper-based applications to register new voters. While that’s a worthy aim, it’s far from foolproof. Sloppy handwriting or other human error can lead to redundant or inaccurate voter rolls.

Automatic voter registration offers a better solution than all those paper registration forms.

First, security. Whenever you go to the department of motor vehicles to get a new license or change your address you’ll be automatically registered to vote unless you simply decline to register. When you get a driver’s license or state ID at the DMV, you’re required to show proof of identity and citizenship to trained staff.  Next, the system will automatically verify that you’re a citizen who’s eligible to vote, before forwarding your registration to the Secretary of State’s office. This adds layers of verification that don’t exist when registering to vote with a volunteer with a clipboard.

People who aren’t eligible will be blocked from getting on the rolls automatically. And thanks to the combination of automated systems and trained staff, the chance for the type of human error that was possible with paper registration forms will be vastly reduced, making our system more accurate and secure.

Because the process is automatic, this simple change will help busy working parents, rural voter who live miles from the polls, or servicemembers moving from military post to post. Whenever you update your ID, your voter registration will follow suit automatically. That’s the convenience and accessibility part.

We have already seen Automatic Voter Registration work in other states, making registering simpler and more secure. Fourteen states now have automatic registration and they have saved taxpayer money and reduced registration errors. In Oregon, 250,000 new voters registered, the state still saved money, and non-partisan election experts agree the change lowered the number of ineligible people added to the voter rolls. And we’ve seen this work in red states and blue states, from Alaska and Colorado to Massachusetts and Maryland.

To improve trust in our voting system and ensure our voter rolls are accurate, we need to make the process of registering both convenient and secure. That’s why the League of Women Voters of Nevada has endorsed this initiative. That’s also why, when I cast my ballot in November, I’ll be voting for Question 5 – Automatic Voter Registration – and it’s why I hope you will, too.

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Sondra Cosgrove
Sondra Cosgrove

Sondra Cosgrove is the executive director of Vote Nevada and a history professor at the College of Southern Nevada.