Georgia could implement online voter registration

HB 899, sponsored by Rep. Buzz Brockway, would allow the secretary of state’s office to develop an online system voter registration system for state residents.  Applicants must have a Georgia driver’s license or identification card from the Department of Driver Services, and the information would be matched to the state’s Driver Services database.

The bill was passed by the House on Monday and is on its way to the Senate for consideration.

Brockway, R-Lawrenceville, categorized the legislation as a cleanup elections bill, put together with input from the state’s Secretary of State’s office, as well as, from an elections advisory council put together last year by Secretary of State Brian Kemp, and including representatives and legal counsel from the two major political parties along with independent representatives.

The secretary of state’s office anticipates using federal funds to develop the system, said spokesman Matt Carrothers.

“[The online system] will greatly simplify the voter registration process for applicants, be more accurate because it will greatly decrease data entry errors, and be more secure than the data entry process because the application can be sent directly to the secretary of state’s office,” he said.”

The online provision is adopted from the National Voter Registration Act, or “Motor Voter” Act. The 11 states currently using the online registration tool have seen a drop in administrative costs from 83 cents per paper application, to 3 cents for online applications, Brockway said.

The legislation approved by the House merges Brockway’s bill, with another bill sponsored by Rep. Mark Hamilton, R-Cumming, that also dealt with voter registration issues and signatures collected by candidates seeking to be placed on ballots.

Because the merged bill was completed with input from county elections officials and with the advisory council, the Association County Commissioners of Georgia has supported the legislation.

In addition to the online voting provisions, the bill also sets as three, the minimum number of members for local boards of election. The bill also eliminates a requirement that incumbent independent candidates seeking re-election collect signatures again to be placed on the ballot when seeking an additional term. It also allows candidates who are disqualified before the end of a qualifying period to receive a refund of their qualifying fee, if the disqualification was due to an error by an elections official. County registrars would also be allowed to clean up their voting rolls by using published newspaper obituaries, death certificates and verifiable information from family members to remove deceased voters.

“As elections move forward you find little things in the law that need to be changed and that's where a lot of these items come from,” said Brockway. “We included items that had broad support, and had support from all sides of the aisle."

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