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Eye On Boise

Idaho launches online voter registration

By Kimberlee Kruesi, Associated Press

BOISE, Idaho (AP) — Idahoans can now register to vote online for the first time.

Secretary of State Lawerence Denney announced Tuesday that the move will offer convenience to voters and cut down administrative work for county election officials.

"Today, Idahoans can not only find out things like where to vote, whether they are registered to vote, or whether the county has received their absentee ballot, but also register to vote online," Denney said.

Online registration requires voters, who would have to have a state-issued ID, to fill out an electronic application that is then sent to state elections officials for validation. The Idaho Transportation Department will provide digital copies of voter signatures from state-issued driver's licenses to become part of the voter registration database.

Denney unveiled the new voter registration website at his first formal press conference since winning the elected seat in 2014. The Republican, who is running for re-election unopposed, has generally kept a low profile since taking over the office. However, he has recently received criticism for continuing the state's participation in a longtime multistate voter registration database that uses unencrypted FTP servers. Denney has since said the he is reevaluating the state's involvement in the program due to security concerns.

Currently, 35 other states online registration with Arizona being the first state to implement a paperless registration system in 2002. Oklahoma has passed legislation creating online voter registration systems, but has not yet implemented such systems. A study in Arizona found that online registration cost the state 3 cents per voter while registering on paper costs about 83 cents per voter.

Idaho lawmakers approved allowing online voter registration in 2016with almost unanimous support.

Currently, roughly 70 percent of Idaho's voting-age population is registered to vote. In 1980, nearly 90 percent of eligible voters were registered. That drop in voter registration along with a drop in election participation has caused voter rights advocates and government officials to find ways to streamline and update how people can participate in the voting process.

For example, in Idaho's most populous Ada County, Chief Deputy Clerk Phil McGrane designed a food truck-inspired voting station in 2016 to entice voters to cast ballots early for the general election.

McGrane said Tuesday that online voter registration will help improve efficiency at the local level because right now county clerks must enter voter registration applications into the system by hand.


Betsy Z. Russell
Betsy Z. Russell joined The Spokesman-Review in 1991. She currently is a reporter in the Boise Bureau covering Idaho state government and politics, and other news from Idaho's state capital.

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