Online voter registration won’t make boards of election obsolete

Move save taxpayer money, but not work at boards of elections.

When online voter registration goes into effect in January, it will save tax dollars and make it easier for Ohioans to register to vote. But local election officials say there likely won’t be a huge decrease in the amount of work for their offices — at least in the beginning.

Ohio Gov. John Kasich signed Senate Bill 63 on Monday establishing an online voter registration system in Ohio. Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted, who’s been pushing this initiative since his days in the Ohio General Assembly, said this “moves Ohio forward into the 21st Century.”

“Online registration makes voting easier, is more secure and saves tax dollars, helping meet the goal of making Ohio a place where it’s easy to vote and hard to cheat,” Husted said. “Ohio is already a national leader in election administration with more opportunities to cast a ballot than many places in the country and online voter registration will add to the state’s lead.”

While this service will be a boon for elections, and Butler and Warren county boards of elections officials applaud the move, they say their staff likely will see a minimal workload decrease in the beginning.

“I’m still going to have to do the same work of checking voter registration,” said Warren County Board of Elections Director Brian Sleeth. “I don’t have to store paper, which that will be the biggest benefit to our office.”

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Just like when someone registers to vote on paper, a voter’s information still needs to be verified, he said.

While Sleeth said there likely won’t be a huge time-saver for Warren County’s staff — where there’s about 148,000 registered voters — it will likely be a time-saver for those larger boards of elections. Butler County, which is the eighth-largest county in Ohio, has roughly 240,000 registered voters.

Butler County Board of Elections Deputy Director Jocelyn Bucaro anticipates similar use and results as with the state’s online change of address software.

“Voters are definitely using it and taking advantage of it,” she said.

And if online voter registration becomes as popular as the online change of address, it can reduce costs, Bucaro said. Because of the online change of address system, Bucaro said the Butler County Board of Elections staff was reduced by four over the course of four years.

“I think when we have an all online registration, or nearly all online registration, it will be very cost effective and we’ll be able to reduce costs,” Bucaro said.

And while she said the initiative is good for taxpayers, “it’s even better for voters.”

Bucaro agreed with Sleeth that there will be the same work to verify people’s online-provided information, but anticipates potential voters providing incorrect information either because of a typo or they just inputted the wrong information.

Though Bucaro said “typos happen,” Sleeth said it would be similar to those voter registration cards with sloppy handwriting.

“Typos happening will be the same amount of when I can’t read someone’s handwriting,” he said. “It will likely be a wash.”

Bucaro said the system had already been incorporated when Husted’s office launched the online change of address system, saying it’s likely “a matter of flipping a switch.”

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