The Paper Chase is Over: Our Plan for Online Voter Registration

The Paper Chase Is Over: Our Plan for Online Voter Registration

The Knight Foundation News Challenge has long fostered innovation in the fields of media and journalism by supporting breakthrough ideas that better inform communities. This year, in partnership with Democracy Fund, Hewlett Foundation, and the Rita Allen Foundation, the News Challenge has taken a new turn with an open call for ideas to better inform the electorate and amplify the role of civic life before, during, and after elections.

The open call received more than 1,000 fantastically creative ideas that covered just about every conceivable aspect of voting and civic life. The U.S. Vote Foundation collaborated with TurboVote, Rock the Vote, Long Distance Voter, and to develop an idea for how we might establish a common data format and transfer method for online voter registration. The new data transfer method would allow voter outreach organizations to directly and securely submit voter registration data online to states that have implemented online voter registration systems. Needless to say we were thrilled when our idea was chosen as one of 45 semi-final entries under consideration!

Online voter registration, commonly referred to as OVR, has gained steam since Arizona first introduced their system in 2002. This year, the legislatures of Oklahoma and New Mexico decided to join the 23 other states that have adopted OVR as a part of the voting experience. A hotly-debated initiative to bring OVR to Florida has also gained a lot of news coverage.

OVR is developing into one of the most important advances in voting over the last few years. States increasingly realize the cost and time savings that accompany OVR are too good to pass up, not to mention the ease voters have in simply visiting a website to register to vote.

The guiding principles behind our OVR Data Transfer Project idea are ease-of-use and security. It's our goal to make it easier for folks to register to vote, and at the same time for states to be able to accept the data with confidence. That's why our project envisions end-to-end encryption of all data - encryption from the first time information is entered online through any of our organizations’ sites till the time it is integrated into a state voter registration database. We look forward to a successful implementation of our project and that it will result in more people registering to vote while state election authorities save money bringing them onto the voter rolls.

To learn more about our project and explore some of the other great ideas that aspire to make our political process better, be sure to visit the project description on the Knight News Challenge site.