OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) - The new Democratic leader in the Oklahoma Senate said Thursday he will introduce a bill in 2015 to allow citizens to register to vote online, a move designed to increase voter participation in a state with traditionally poor voter turnout.
State Sen. Randy Bass, D-Lawton, studied the issue with members of the Senate Rules Committee and received testimony from party officials and election experts.
“We’re just trying to get in line with other states and get more people out to vote,” Bass said. “I think it will be safe and secure.”
Rules Committee Chairwoman Sen. A.J. Griffin, R-Guthrie, said she would need to see cost estimates and have assurances the online database was secure before she agreed to grant the bill a hearing.
Connecticut, Delaware, Georgia, Massachusetts and Missouri adopted online voter registration last year, bringing to 20 the number of states that currently allow it, said Wendy Underhill with the National Conference of State Legislatures.
In Colorado, which adopted it in 2010, about one-quarter of voters register online, and most states verify the application information with motor vehicle records, Underhill said. Costs in most states ranged from $100,000 to $750,000, with some states reporting lower costs, she said.
In Oklahoma, voter registration forms can be downloaded and completed online, but they must be printed out and delivered in person or by mail to a county or state election board. Oklahoma voter applications can also be picked up at election board offices, libraries, post offices, tag agencies and other locations.
Oklahoma consistently has lower voter turnout, especially among young people, and online voter registration would be an ideal way to target those voters, who often are more mobile and technology savvy, said Jacintha Bachman, president of the Young Democrats of Oklahoma. A little more than 40 percent of registered voters in Oklahoma turned out for last week’s election, the lowest rate since the 1960s, according to the Oklahoma Election Board.
Both Bachman and Underhill testified there are no known security breaches of online voter registration systems, but the potential for a computer hacker to cause chaos on Election Day makes it a serious concern, said John Roberts, political director for the Oklahoma Republican Party.
“It’s such a new technology, it brings with it inherent security risks,” Roberts said. “This isn’t a partisan issue. This is a security issue.”
Bass acknowledged that making sure the online database is secure would be a priority, but said fear of a possible hacker shouldn’t stop the state from moving forward with an idea to improve voter participation.
“Anybody can hack,” Bass said. “You can’t let the bad guys run your world.”
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