HARRISBURG, Pa. - Pennsylvanians will soon be able to register online to vote.
Gov. Tom Wolf's administration plans to launch the system Thursday, making Pennsylvania the 23rd state to offer Internet-based registration, officials told The Associated Press. The National Conference of State Legislatures says five other states have approved online systems but not yet implemented them.
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Wolf and Secretary of State Pedro Cortes, the state's top election official, plan to discuss the details at a news conference at the Harrisburg headquarters of the Pennsylvania County Commissioners Association. Doug Hill, the group's director, said Wednesday that county officials strongly support the new system.
Online registration was among the voting reforms the Democratic governor promised when he ran for governor last year. Supporters say it's cheaper, more accurate and more convenient than registering on paper.
The online option should be available to people who need to register to vote in the Nov. 3 general election, although they also can continue to use paper forms. The registration deadline is Oct. 5.
Some lawmakers have suggested legislative approval is necessary to authorize such a sweeping change, but administration officials said they are confident that existing law assigns the necessary legal authority to the executive branch. Wolf spokesman Jeff Sheridan said Cortes' department reached out to key legislators from both parties as well as county election officials in developing the system.
To register online, prospective voters fill out a form on an Internet site and submit the completed form to election officials, according to the Denver-based NCSL, which tracks trends in state election laws across the country.
Information on the form is compared electronically with the information on the applicant's driver's license or PennDOT non-driver identification card. If they match, the signature already on record becomes the signature used for voting. If not, the state will offer two other options to get the applicant's signature on file with county election officials, including by mail.
Software development for the online registration system, which will be maintained by the state, will cost an estimated $200,000 spread over several years, Sheridan said. But savings are anticipated from reduced reliance on paper forms and labor-intensive data entry.
As of last year's general election, nearly 8.3 million Pennsylvanians were registered to vote.
To register to vote for the first time in Pennsylvania, a person must be a U.S. citizen and a resident of the Pennsylvania district in which they want to vote for at least one month before the next election. They also must be at least 18 years old by the day of the election.
Once registered, Pennsylvania voters do not need to register again unless they change their residence, name or party affiliation.
This article was written by The Associated Press.