State considers new voter registration system

Diamondback Online

If a bill aimed to promote online voter registration passes the state legislature in the coming weeks, student leaders plan to work with university officials to create an online system for students where registering to vote is as easy as logging onto Testudo.

Last month, Del. Jon Cardin (D-Baltimore County) and Del. Ron George (R-Anne Arundel County) proposed a bill that would enable those registering to vote to allow a voter registration agency to submit an electronic signature on file rather than have them sign an application on paper, which would expedite the process, Cardin said. The bill would also require the voting agency to submit electronic signatures within five days of the applicant providing consent to the State Board of Elections.

Cardin discussed the bill with Student Government Association leaders last week and said if the bill passes the legislature, it may enable the university to establish a university-run system where students can log in using their directory ID numbers and passwords and register to vote using the electronic signatures already on file with the university.

"It dramatically increases the facility and ability to register to vote," Cardin said. "Making it easier to vote and cheaper to vote, for both those reasons, this bill should pass."

SGA Director of Governmental Affairs Zach Cohen said he is optimistic the bill will be signed into law and hopes implementing online voter registration through the university would encourage more students to vote.

"We are very excited for this," Cohen said. "Instead of doing something in paper and turning it in, if the university participates students would be able to go to a website and they'll be able to register there, and then the university would be able to forward this to the State Board of Elections. ... It would certainly make registration for college students significantly less burdensome."

SGA leaders have begun discussing implementing such a system with Stamp Student Union Director Marsha Guenzler-Stevens, who has also begun to coordinate with administrators in the Office of the Registrar about the possibility. A student and faculty committee will also meet soon to brainstorm ways to generate student interest in the elections and push students to the polls, which the university did in the 2008 presidential election.

While Guenzler-Stevens said she is unsure whether the university would be able to feasibly institute a university-run online voter registration system, she said officials will look into providing alternate access to voter registration for students, which may include providing students with links to other agencies.

"We're always looking for new ways to enhance voter education and voter participation," Guenzler-Stevens said. "Often new technological innovations are born from the creative ideas of students. Clearly we need to look at other institutions and what they are doing and who may have other options or ideas, and I think folks have already begun to do that."

Some students said they have yet to figure out how and where they can register to vote for the upcoming presidential election, and several said online voter registration through the university would make it much easier and more accessible.

"I'm not sure how to register to vote, and I've asked around and haven't gotten a straight answer," junior English and studio art major Codi Gugliuzza said. "That'd be much more convenient because you could just go anywhere that has a computer, and it sounds like it would be very secure."