Pennsylvania's new online voter registration launched

| 02 Sep 2015 | 12:07

— Gov. Tom Wolf announced Aug. 27 that Pennsylvania is now the 23rd state in the country to provide online voter registration. Here's a look at how the system works and what it means for taxpayers and voters:

Voter registration online To register to vote online, go to the website — — and complete the form.

Once completed, the form is forwarded electronically to the person's county voter registration office. If the information on the form matches the person's Pennsylvania driver's license or PennDOT non-driver identification card, the signature on file will become the signature used for voting. Unless the county requests additional information, the county will mail a voter-registration card to the voter's residence.

People who don't have a driver's license or PennDOT ID card cannot complete the registration process entirely online. Instead, they can complete and print out the form, sign and mail it to their county registration office.

The nearly 8.3 million Pennsylvania voters who were registered as of last year's general election do not need to register again unless they change their residence, name or party affiliation.

To register to vote for the first time, a person must be a U.S. citizen and at least 18 by the day of the election. They must reside at least one month before the next election in the Pennsylvania district in which they want to vote.

Supporters and detractors The Democratic governor and Secretary of State Pedro Cortes said online registration is more convenient for voters and will save taxpayers money, as well as improve the accuracy of voter rolls. The Pennsylvania County Commissioners Association, an advocate for the state's 67 counties, said the online system also could boost voter rolls and sagging voter turnout.

About 2 million Pennsylvanians who are eligible to vote remain unregistered. By the end of business last Thursday, more than 660 people had registered online, the governor's office said.

Cortes said state law gives the governor the legal authority to unilaterally put online registration in place. But Cortes acknowledged that he would prefer the passage of legislation specifically mandating it. Rep. Daryl Metcalfe, who chairs the House State Government Committee, said he believes the governor is on thin ice legally. Metcalfe said he and his allies are considering a court challenge.

“This is a very important process that needs to be done right,'' the Butler County Republican said in a telephone interview. “We have a constitution and we have a separation of powers for a reason. The executive branch is not supposed to make law.''

Costs and savings The state's share of the cost of the new system is expected to be about $200,000 spread over several years, mainly to cover software development, Cortes said. The counties, which run state elections, are expected to see savings with the use of less paper and a drop in labor-intensive data entry. “Deploying technology to make the registration process easier and more convenient makes sense, especially when it will also save money, increase accuracy and improve the voting experience,'' said Susan Carty, board president of the Pennsylvania League of Women Voters.