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Senate Rules Committee Discusses Online Voter Registration

Senator Randy Bass - District 32
Oklahoma Senate
/
Oklahoma Senate

The Democratic leader in the Oklahoma Senate plans to introduce a bill to help increase voter participation in Oklahoma by allowing citizens to register to vote online.

State Sen. Randy Bass of Lawton held an interim study on the issue Thursday before the Senate Rules Committee and said afterward he planned to sponsor a bill in the upcoming session.

According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, voters in about 20 states have the option of applying online to become a registered voter, but not in Oklahoma.

In Oklahoma, voter registration forms can be downloaded and completed online, but they must be delivered or mailed to a county or state election board.

An Oklahoma Republican Party official voiced concern online registration could pose data security problems.

During the interim study, the Senate Rules Committee heard presentations Thursday concerning the good and the bad of online voter registration.

State Election Board Secretary Paul Ziriax said his office is prepared to implement whatever the Legislature tells him to do but cautioned additional funding likely would be necessary to maintain the integrity of the state’s voter registration records.

“If this is the direction the Legislature wants to go, we can do it,” Ziriax told the committee’s members.

Ziriax cautioned against implementing a system that automatically registered a voter and produced a voter registration card. Instead, he said the system should allow the voter to submit their registration form electronically and that the form would be reviewed for approval just as the paper form currently is. He also suggested that the system be tied to the Department of Public Safety’s drivers licensing system to help confirm the registrant is a real person. Current voter registration forms require the registrant to supply their driver’s license number or Social Security number for verification, he said.

He also requested, if an online system is implemented, to allow the board to work with DPS, which provider voter registration forms through its motor vehicle licensing offices, and other assistance agencies that provide voter registration information to develop a coordinated and efficient online system.

But Ziriax cautioned, “I don’t think we have the staff or budget to develop this internally” like Kansas and Arizona did. Ziriax said the agency has approximately $9 million in federal funds left over from its 2012 implementation of its voting system that potentially could be used to help fund the development of a system. However, he said the Legislature would need to consider the ongoing costs of the program in future years.

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