New Electionline report on voter registration released a new study on the current status of voter registration. Here’s a summary of the report, from this week’s electionline Weekly:

Among the findings:

*While the variety of services available from state governments online is growing in most areas, it remains largely under-utilized in the voter registration field. Forty-one states use the Internet as a place for voters to find forms, but once located such forms still need to be printed, filled out by hand, and sent to or dropped off at a registrar’s office.

*Only one state, Arizona, allows for a completely paperless, online registration, using digital signatures from DMV transactions. Even with the Internet option, however, Arizona voters must complete the registration at least 29 days before an election.

*Restrictions on “third party” registration drives conducted by political parties, civil rights groups, environmental activists and others are growing nationally as each federal election cycle brings scattered reports of mishandled or discarded registration applications. Of the 37 states responding to the survey, 17 indicated that rules are in place requiring some increased level of scrutiny registration drives – sometimes to the dismay of groups organizing from such drives. Rules vary, from mandatory training or registration of volunteers in some states, to “anti-bundling” regulations in Ohio that prohibit the return of multiple applications, to Florida’s new $5,000 fine for every voter registration application that cannot be accounted for by the group who solicited the application.

*Most states do not maintain statistics on the number of rejected applications. Those that did indicated the numbers nationally could be in the hundreds of thousands each year. The most common reasons cited – applicants are not old enough, do not have a valid address or are not U.S. citizens.

*While localities were not separately surveyed, state officials indicated that local registrars of voters contact applicants if mistakes are identified on registration applications. However, it is not known if the practice is standard for all applicants in all localities.

“The reluctance to embrace technology is not unsurprising, especially considering the unease with which many view the modernization of elections generally,” Chapin said. “While there may continue to be technological advances in the area of voter registration in the foreseeable future, I would expect such advances to be met with the same skepticism and scrutiny that has attended modernization efforts in other parts of the voting process.”

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