Registering to vote is catching up to the 21st century with new software that creates an online registration system making its way to county election offices statewide.
The software to set up a link on election homepages was sent to county offices Friday, and online access is expected to be available by early September, in time for the Oct. 22 registration deadline for the Nov. 6 presidential election, State Sen. Leland Yee's (D-San Mateo/San Francisco) chief of staff, Adam Keigwin, said.
The online registration system was put into place following passage of Yee's bill last fall. The law now mandates that the state recognize online registration as a legal method of registering to vote.
The status quo required constituents fill out a paper form - which will still be available - but drew ire from many voters and election offices, Keigwin said.
The online system, which will be coordinated through the California Secretary of State's office, expects to offer less paper printing and less time transferring voter information into the system for election staffers.
"It's a lot easier to use," Keigwin said. "When you type in your own name, you spell it correctly."
Other human errors, many stemming from messy handwriting, will no longer be an issue, and hopefully will ameliorate registration problems on election day, Keigwin added.
Online registration is also expected to save election offices money - something San Mateo County Elections Office election manager David Tom supports.
"It will have many, many benefits," Tom said, including savings from lower labor costs and a more streamlined system.
"It will save us keystrokes," Tom said. Often, election staff "have to 'translate' what was written."
Tom sees an online method continuing long into the future, especially since it will likely align more with younger voters' lifestyles.
"Hopefully this will encourage more young people to register," he said.
Although online voter registration is now a law, individual county offices may choose not to adopt the new method. For example, representatives from the Alameda County Registrar of Voters said the office would not be implementing an online system in time for the fall election.
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