State officials launched a new website Tuesday that allows Connecticut residents, with a valid driver’s license, to register to vote online.
“It is all of our jobs to help make it easier for people to register to vote and increase our access to democracy,” Secretary of the State Denise Merrill said at a Capitol press conference announcing the launch of the new site.
There are an estimated 200,000 Connecticut residents with driver’s licenses who are not registered to vote, Merrill said.
The new system created by PCC Technology of Bloomfield will check the information the voter enters into the system against their signature on file with the Department of Motor Vehicles. The registration then gets sent to the local registrar of voters, who needs to accept it and verify it before a voter is certified to vote in a specific municipality.
Melissa Russell, president of the Registrar of Voters Association in Connecticut, said getting to Hartford from Bethlehem in the snow was more difficult than gathering the online registration information. She said the new system sends her an email confirmation that she verifies. She then sends a letter to the voter to let them know their registration was accepted.
Joe Singh of PCC Technology said the system is safe and secure. He said his company has built similar systems for about 11 states and has never had a problem. The website cost the state $330,000.
But Merrill stressed that it’s more than an online system because it relies on verification by local election officials.
Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, who won a first term in 2010 by 6,404 votes, knows more than most that every vote counts.
Malloy has not said whether he will seek re-election, but he was happy to pose for pictures with the two young college students changing their voter registration as part of Tuesday’s demonstration. When part of the online registration of Lisette Rodriguez was blocked from a projection screen to protect her personal information, Malloy joked that he wanted to see her party affiliation.
Connecticut does not allow online voting, but it does allow a person to register to vote and vote on the same day. An estimated 2,900 voters took advantage of Election Day Registration in the 2013 municipal election last November. But since Merrill does not certify local election results, it’s still unclear exactly how many voters may have used that option to vote.
Still, one day after the November election, Malloy and Merrill were touting Election Day Registration as a success.
“The results coming in sometimes come by police car,” Merrill said. “We still have a long way to go in terms of our results reporting.”
She said the online voter registration will help create more accurate lists. Election result reporting has been a little bit more of a tough sell to local election officials, who have complained about the technology and having to enter the information into the system along with several paper forms required by the state. Reporting election results online is still completely voluntary for local election officials even though the state is trying to encourage its use.
For state and federal elections, Merrill said they will field test their election results reporting system in 2014.
“It takes a long time to break habits in Connecticut,” Merrill said.
The online voter registration system is the second step in a package of election reforms approved in 2012. The first was Election Day Registration.