In the constantly changing election landscape, many states are trying to find ways to improve the voter experience and increase turnout while saving money.
In Arizona–which pioneered online registration back in 2002–an online voter registration costs just 3 cents, compared to 83 cents for a paper registration. In Washington state the cost of an online registration is 45 cents, compared to $1.55 for a paper form.
Online registration also dramatically improves accuracy in the registration process by eliminating clerical errors. That’s important, because lots of voters are using it. In 2012, California implemented online registration and 679,000 new voters used it to register in the two months leading up to the November election. Twenty states now offer online registration, and four other states have passed legislation but have yet implemented it.
We previously reported on a proposal in Los Angeles to offer cash prizes for voting. Elsewhere in California, other ideas are being tested.
Governor Brown recently signed a bill that allows San Mateo County to experiment with all mail-ballot elections. San Mateo now joins a vote-by-mail pilot program already underway in Yolo County for up to three elections before the end of 2017. The pilot’s goal is to collect data that will be provided to state legislators.
The pilot project requires that every registered voter receive a ballot in the mail along with a ballot return envelope with prepaid postage. The county must also provide at least one polling place and drop-off location in each of its cities for those who don’t receive a ballot, want to submit their ballot on Election Day, or prefer to vote in person.
San Mateo County’s chief elections officer hopes that conducting elections by mail will increase voter participation and cut costs. He is hoping to see the county’s cities and special districts implement a mail-ballot election by 2015.
Yolo County, which conducted its first mail-ballot election in March 2013, found that while the turnout was “not significantly different than the polling place elections,” there was a 43% cost savings.
What changes would you make registering and voting easier for you?