By noon Wednesday, 12 hours after California's online voter registration system went live, some 3,000 people had used it to either register for the first time or update their registrations. Not bad.
After years of promises and a little over a month before the Oct. 22 voter registration deadline for the November presidential election, California's online registration system is in place. For the first time citizens with state drivers licenses or DMV identification cards will be able to both fill in and submit voter registration applications online -- using their computers, electronic tablets, or smart phones -- in short, any device that connects them to the Internet. After they fill out the forms, their signatures will be digitally transferred from their driver's licenses or ID cards to their voter registration applications.
The online system makes registration easier for voters and saves money and time for county registrars. Under the old system, every application had to be handled manually. Even those filled out online still had to be printed, signed and mailed to local registrars. There, the applications were scanned into computers. If applicants filled out the forms in longhand, registrars had to retype the information into computers, often having to decipher barely legible handwriting. Mistakes were rife.
During the busy 2008 presidential election season, some county registrars said they were operating around the clock to process the crush of applications received in the final days before the registration deadlines. Registrars says they expect the new system to reduce errors, save money and cut the workload and number of provisional ballots issued on election day.
Election officials in Arizona, the first state to offer online registration, say it costs 83 cents to process an online application compared to more than $5 to process one manually.
For those worried about fraud, Secretary of State Debra Bowen notes that all the same safeguards to protect against fraud with paper applications will be in place for online applications.
Eleven other states have online voter registration systems. While there have been occasional technical glitches -- New York's system crashed in August just before its primary -- online registration has proved popular and effective everywhere it's been tried.
Even if glitches develop in California, the paper- based voter registration systems are still available.
Just over four weeks remain before the Oct. 22 deadline to register for the Nov. 6 presidential election. If you haven't already registered, do so; vote and let your voice be heard.
Eligible voters can find the registration applications at http:// registertovote.ca.gov.