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California offers option to register to vote online

September 19, 2012 12:00:00 AM PDT
Not registered to vote? Now you can register online. California officials made it easier than ever and launched an online registration system. They say it could benefit millions of potential voters.

With the general election less than seven weeks away, officials expect the Web feature to benefit millions of Californians who are qualified to vote, but haven't registered.

California joined 11 other states in offering online voter registration. Three of those states have experienced glitches that temporarily crashed their systems.

There's the old-fashioned way of registering to vote: filling out a paper form. Now there's a new way: filling out the voter registration application online and sending it in via computer or smartphone.

California Secretary of State Debra Bowen launched a new online voter registration system a month before the deadline to be able to vote in the presidential election this November.

"The main reason people don't register to vote is simply because they were never asked," said Bowen. "Now asking will just take a quick email or text message."

Online voter registration finally brings California, ground zero for high-tech, into the 21st century.

For your signature, the state will simply pull up your driver's license record or California identification, already at the DMV.

"This newly built system will allow us to digitally transfer an image of the voter's signature to their voter registration application," said Bowen.

Nearly 24 million Californians are eligible to vote. More than one-quarter of those eligible, about 6.5 million, aren't registered.

The new sign-up method is expected to boost the voter rolls among the young who are already used to doing a lot of things online.

But critics say online registration will boost the possibility of fraud where anyone can register to vote.

"We have such a beautiful system. I don't know why we need to muck it up more than it already is," said Ted Costa, part of the People's Advocate group.

Secretary Bowen insists the same safeguards used for paper applications will be used for the ones submitted online, cross-checked with DMV, Social Security and death records.

"The safeguards don't change. This is not automatic registration," said Bowen.

The last day to register for the November election is October 22.


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