Why Tennessee Needs Online Voter Registration

Friday, January 15, 2016
Tennessee voter registration forms

By Secretary of State Tre Hargett

During this legislative session, a bill sponsored by Sen. Ken Yager (R-Kingston) and Rep. Gerald McCormick (R-Chattanooga) would allow the Division of Elections to implement online voter registration in Tennessee. I am supporting this legislation because I believe this makes government work better for our customer, the taxpayer.

Implementing an online voter registration system would streamline the process of registering voters and improve accuracy and efficiency. This type of system would allow anyone with a driver’s license or photo ID issued by the Tennessee Department of Safety and Homeland Security to register to vote online where their information would be checked against the department's database, and at the same time securely obtaining an electronic signature already on file with the state. An online system would help ensure forms are filled out correctly and completely before being submitted to the county level. In addition, voter information would get to the local county offices more quickly.

In our current system, applications have to be filled out, printed off, and re-entered into a computer. That seems like the definition of a government bureaucracy that merely shuffles paperwork around. With an online system, we can eliminate the unnecessary repetition and reduce the risk of error. It would also allow election officials to spend their precious time on other election needs, especially leading up to an election.

Online voter registration is an opportunity for us to meet customers, the taxpayers, where they are and provide them yet another way they can register to vote. People will have the ability to register from the comfort of their homes and even in the palm of their hands on mobile devices. This proposal is about making government work better for its constituents. This online system will also allow us to better reach the men and women serving overseas in the military, making it easier for those citizens abroad to register to vote while keeping information secure.

Because I take election integrity very seriously, one of the biggest concerns I had when first considering this technology was security and the potential for voter fraud. However, because of the partnership with the Department of Safety and additional security measures, I believe we can ensure there are less errors and a more accurate record of voter rolls, actually reducing the risk of fraud. To this date, there have been no known reports of fraud or security breaches via online systems in other states. We can maintain the integrity of our election system, evening decreasing the number of errors and potential for voter fraud.

In an age of political polarization, Republicans and Democrats have been able to agree on this solution for better government. All across the political spectrum, online voter registration has been supported including groups such as the Republican National Lawyers Association, the Council of State Governments, Pew Charitable Trusts, Bipartisan Policy Center and many more. The National Conference of State Legislatures has also touted how this initiative has received bipartisan support. Secretaries of state of all different political stripes have embraced this technology and Tennessee should join them.

Currently, 29 states (plus the District of Columbia) have online voter registration, with even more considering implementation. More than half of the United States has embraced this technology, after Arizona started the trend more than a decade ago. It is now Tennessee’s time to demonstrate that our government can work better for the customer and bring voter registration into the 21st century. I invite you to join me in supporting online voter registration so we can make government more efficient and responsive to the needs of citizens.