- Associated Press - Monday, March 3, 2014

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) - A bill that would set up a system for online voter registration in Iowa unanimously passed in the Senate on Monday without debate and moved to the House for further work on verification of electronic signatures.

Under the bill, which passed 48-0, voters must provide the same information required on other voter registration forms. They would use the secretary of state’s website to electronically register. Those registering must have an Iowa driver’s license, a Social Security number or other identifying number, and they must attest that all information is correct.

The measure makes fraudulent electronic registration a class D felony.

“We think that Iowa can be a leader in turnout in elections,” said Sen. Jeff Danielson, a Democrat from Cedar Falls. “We should be top of the nation and this will help in a small way, on the front end, provide a better customer service for those Iowans who want to choose it.”

The bill would take effect Jan. 1.

Equipment upgrades, training and education are expected to cost an additional $250,000 next year, according to an estimate by the nonpartisan Legislative Services Agency, which provides cost estimates for lawmakers. The bill provides no additional funding.

Danielson said Iowa Secretary of State Matt Schultz’s office and county auditors around the state provided input on the bill and had ideas on how information would be transferred from election officials to the Iowa Department of Transportation for verification of the electronic signatures that voters would provide when registering.

While an amendment has been drafted to clarify that language in the bill, Danielson said it wasn’t ready in time for Senate debate, but is expected to be worked out in the House.

“We want the House to have time to work in a bipartisan way on eventually passing it this year,” he said.

Any changes in the bill will return to the Senate for final approval.

Schultz’s office hasn’t taken a position on the bill but supports the online registration concept, said spokesman Chance McElhaney in an email message.

“We’ll continue working with House members as the process moves forward,” he said.

The National Conference of State Legislatures says as of last month 16 states offer online registration and another four have passed legislation to create such systems but haven’t implemented them yet.

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Follow David Pitt on Twitter at https://twitter.com/davepitt .


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