Starting today, Vermonters can register to vote from the comfort of their own homes. Secretary of State Jim Condos says the new online voter registration system will improve access to democracy, and will also make elections less vulnerable to fraud.
About 90 percent of Vermont’s nearly 500,000 eligible voters are already eligible to vote. But for the 50,000 or so people who have yet to join the checklist, or for those newly eligible to vote, the process needed to cast a ballot just got easier.
“So they can actually register whenever it’s most convenient for them – they don’t have to take time away from work,” Condos says.
The new online feature made its debut on the secretary of state’s website Monday morning. Condos says it replicates exactly the paper questionnaire residents previously had to fill out, and he says residents will still have to confirm the legal requirements needed to vote under Vermont law.
“There are three major questions: Are you a U.S. citizen? Are you a resident of the state of Vermont? And are you over 18?” Condos says.
Vermont doesn’t require proof of citizenship to register to vote, and Condos says allowing residents to perform the task online won’t make the system more vulnerable to fraud. People who lie on voter registration forms are subject to a $10,000 fine or 15 years in jail, and Condos says the same penalties will be in place for people who knowingly misrepresent themselves on the online form.
Condos says the aggregation of the voter checklist in digital form will actually enhance elections security.
“We can run an audit of our checklist and see if anyone showed up in more than one location,” Condos says.
Condos’ office administered eight training sessions to municipal officials over the summer, and he says training will continue as the system gets up and running. Condos says town and city clerks will have to sign off on new additions to the checklist, whether people register online or in-person.
He says the new system will be especially useful for military personnel stationed overseas.
“Otherwise they have to fill out paper and send it to us, and we want them to do this from wherever they are,” Condos says.
The new system will also provide voters with their own customized account, something Condos calls the “My Voter Page.”
Condos says voters can use that page to request absentee ballots, see sample ballots in their precinct, and access information about coming elections.
“You can actually click, give me a map to the polling place, or you can click for … written instructions on how to find it,” Condos says.
Condos says the system will cost $2.7 million over 10 years.
His office will hold a formal launch event for the new system next week. The online form is available at http://olvr.sec.state.vt.us/.