Last year, Senate Bill 313 went into effect, which permits Oklahoma residents to register to vote electronically. Currently, the State Election Board is working to create a system to allow online registration.
Senate Bill 313, sponsored by Senator David Holt, permits online registration with a valid state driver’s license or identification card. Voters may, as is current procedure, submit hard copies of their registration to state or county election boards.
Bryan Dean, public information officer with the State Election Board, says the date online registration will be available is currently unknown.
“Generally it takes 1 to 3 years from authorization to implementation,” he said, “and we’re hoping to fall into that window.” Although he knows “people would love to see it faster,” Dean says “we want to get it right.”
The State Election Board reviewed other states’ models in the creation of the system. There are specific challenges to Oklahoma, however, as computer systems and other factors vary.
Tying the registration in with driver’s license or state identification cards has proven one unique challenge, according to Dean.
The Department of Public Safety needs to be involved to coordinate the two systems. Federal laws protect driver’s license information, as well, so this adds to the challenge.
Yet requiring some form of state identification may improve security. With the current system, residents must swear an oath that they meet the requirements for voting: 18 years of age or older, United States citizenship and no felony convictions. Individuals found violating this oath can be charged with a felony.
“That’s the real mechanism of enforcement,” Dean said. Under the new system, these requirements could be easily and immediately checked because it would be tied to driver’s licenses.
According to Dean, the current system doesn’t allow for such ease and speed of verifying the oath.
Dean believes this new system will also reduce the workload of the election board office, especially on the county level. While there will be some challenges, especially with creating and implementing the system, overall he hopes it will make things easier for officials.
Although Dean hopes the ease of online registration will increase numbers, he realizes that “ultimately, civic engagement has to drive voter participation and registration.”
“If [people] are willing to wait in line to get the next iPhone or see the next Marvel movie, they need to be willing to wait in line to vote,” he said.
The state is looking for ways to make the process easier, but “it takes more of a societal effort to make big inroads” into voter participation, he believes.