York County officials embrace new online voter registration


Eligible Pennsylvanians can now go online to register to vote online to register to vote, and officials in York County are embracing the new technology.

Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf and Secretary of State Pedro Cortes unveiled the new Internet-based system during a Thursday morning press conference. About the same time, the voter registration website was up and running.

A little over an hour after the site went live, 28 people statewide had registered to vote, said Wanda Murren, spokeswoman for the Department of State, adding she expected the number to climb throughout the day.

"We love watching these numbers roll up," she said.

Wolf said the system will enhance democracy and hopefully increase voter participation in elections, and officials said the online system will save taxpayers money, improve the accuracy of the voter rolls and make registration more convenient

Pennsylvania is now the 23rd state to provide online voter registration.

Numbers: In York County, 269,008 residents are registered to vote, according to the county elections and voter registration office.

The office doesn't keep track of how many people are eligible to vote but haven't registered, said Nikki Suchanic, head of the office.

Going by U.S. Census 2013 population estimates, there are about 340,000 people over the age of 18, the age at which people can first vote, in York County. That means about 71,000 residents are of voting age but aren't registered.

There are an estimated 2 million Pennsylvanians who are eligible to vote but aren't registered to do so, Murren said.

Some convicted felons aren't eligible to vote.

Locally: Both major political parties in the county, as well as the county's elections office, are embracing the new technology.

Links to the state-run voter registration website will be added to sites operated by the county and the local GOP and Democrats, officials said.

Bob Kefauver, chairman of the York County Democratic Party, said the new technology hopefully will drive up the number of registered voters, which could, in turn, increase voter turnout at election time.

"I definitely think it's a victory for democracy on a whole," Kefauver said.

Alex Shorb, head of the York County GOP, said online registration adds to various ways people can register to vote now.

Residents can register to vote at many state and local government offices, including state Department of Transportation locations when renewing or obtaining a driver's license or at the county elections office, and through the mail.

"We have to go to the people and not have them come to us," Shorb said. "Overall I like the idea of making voter registration easier."

But, he said, there may be unforeseen problems, although he didn't cite one specifically, that may arise, as with any new policy.

"We have to make it as easy as possible but also have to have fair and honest elections," Shorb said.

Registering to vote online

Eligible Pennsylvanians can now register to vote by going online .

To be eligible, residents must be:

* A citizen of the United States for at least one month before the next primary, special, municipal or general election.

* A resident of Pennsylvania and the election district in which you want to register and vote for at least 30 days before the next primary, special, municipal or general election.

* At least 18 years of age on or before the day of the next primary, special, municipal or general election.

The website Votes Pa also contains useful information for voters.

The deadline to register to vote for the general election is Monday, Oct. 5. The election is Tuesday, Nov. 3.

— Reach Greg Gross at ggross@yorkdispatch.com.