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Pennsylvania Considers Online Voter Registration

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By Gabriella Khorasanee, JD on October 04, 2013 3:56 PM

For a place that played such a pivotal role in the forming of our nation's democracy, you would think Pennsylvania would uphold the rights of voters, rather than find new ways to disenfranchise them.

While we await decision from Pennsylvania courts regarding the constitutionality of its newly enacted voter id laws, a unanimously passed bill permitting online voter registration has now stalled in the House State Government Committee.

Senate Bill 37

Unanimously passed by the Pennsylvania Senate by a vote of 49-0 this spring, Senate Bill 37, would permit Pennsylvanians to register to vote online, reports The Patriot-News. Sen. Lloyd Smucker (R-Lancaster) was inspired to sponsor the bill when a constituent asked him why he couldn't register to vote via computer.

The bill is now before the House State Government Committee chaired by Rep. Daryl Metcalfe (R-Butler) who is not prioritizing the bill, stating: "I'm more interested in working on issues ... that are going to improve the integrity of the elections." He also noted that digital voter registration increased the risk of "fraud and shenanigans," reports 90.5 WESA.

Sen. Smucker countered by stating:

Some doubters worry about security ... But today people many people run their personal finances online. In fact, we encourage people to do their taxes online. If security were a serious concern, those are the places where we would see problems -- certainly not with a simple voter registration.

What makes the delay particularly frustrating for Pennsylvanians, is that Senate Bill 37 has wide ranging, bi-partisan support, reports Pennsylvania Independent. Supporters include the AFL-CIO, Commonwealth Foundation and the PA Business Council.

Noting the reliance on all things digital by younger generations, Christopher Nichols, the PA Business Council political director notes, "As more and more of our younger generation come of voting age, it's important to remember they are an all-digital generation," according to Pennsylvania Independent.

Under Senate Bill 37, voters would be eligible to participate in an election if they register up to 30 days before. The cost of setting up online registration could cost up to $300,000, but according to the PA Independent, could be free if the government acts quickly enough to include it with other scheduled changes to the voter database.

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