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The Ability to Register to Vote, Coming to a Computer Near You

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A typical scene in California, voter registration tables outside stores may soon have wirelessly-enabled iPads. | Photo: Korean Resource Center 민족학교/Flickr/Creative Commons License

If you don't like the mail but still want to register to vote, then I have good news for you. Californians will be able to register to vote online starting next month. Last week Secretary of State Debra Bowen told county election officials that the California Online Voter Registration System will soon be up and running. Local officials in the state's 58 counties will be offered online training about the registration process.

This strikes me as a terrific way to use technology to enhance civic engagement. There is a generation of young would-be voters for whom sending snail mail is a historic activity best left to their parents and grandparents. This online system would make it more likely that this generation will register to vote.

This is all made possible by a bill signed by Governor Jerry Brown last year. That bill also provided for coordination between the Secretary of State and Department of Motor Vehicles in order to authenticate applicants' identities and obtain digital copies of applicants' signatures.

If you want to vote in the 2012 elections, you will have approximately six weeks to do so once the voter registration system goes live. October 22 is the deadline to register to vote for those elections.

The next step of course is getting people to the ballot box, or to mail in their ballots.
Last week I began teaching a course on election law and we started with the right to vote. It is worth noting the decades-long struggle that so many endured to allow us to take it as given that we have not only the right to cast a ballot, but also have the right to an equally weighted one. People fought for years through courts and legislatures to obtain those rights.

I applaud California's officials for making it even easier to exercise those rights.

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