There aren’t many eligible people in Michigan who aren’t registered to vote, but for the few who aren’t, they will soon be able to skip a trip to the Secretary of State or their local clerk’s office and sign up to vote.
The Elections committees in both the Senate and House of Representatives debated legislation Thursday to allow people who have drivers’ licenses or state identification cards to register to vote online. The Senate panel unanimously passed the bills and the House is expected to take up the issue for a vote next week.
“Our online services already allow for changes in address for both driver’s license and voter registration,” said Secretary of State Ruth Johnson. “It’s a system that’s tested, proven and very successful.”
About 97% of Michigan’s 7.6 million people who are eligible to vote are registered. Most of those have registered at the time that they get their driver’s license.
Most of the nation’s states — and the District of Columbia — allow residents to apply to register to vote online. The system will be secure, Johnson said, because the Secretary of State will already have a potential voter’s information on file because of their driver’s license or state identification card.
“We’ll have the advantage of determining a voter’s eligibility,” she said, noting that the department will be able to tell if a person is trying to register at an address that’s different from their driver’s license. “And we already have their signature on file.”
But Will White, of the Ypsilanti-based Michigan Election Reform Alliance, said putting voter registration online will put the state at a bigger risk of being hacked.
“It would be a big mistake to expose our voter database to hackers,” he said, noting that voter databases in 21 states, not including Michigan, were hacked during the 2016 election cycle. “It doesn’t matter how high the security is, it can be breached.”
Fred Woodhams, spokesman for the Secretary of State, said it’s important to note that of those 21 states, 20 were “probed,” but not breached.
“It was similar to a thief going up to a door and jiggling the door handle to see if the door is unlocked,” he said. The state’s system “Is a very secure system and has already performed hundreds of millions of transactions. It’s the system people use to renew their plates, their driver’s license and adds the functionality for the person who wasn’t previously registered to vote.”
The Senate bills — SB 425-429 — move to the full Senate for consideration. While the House bills — HB 5548-5549 — will be taken up in next week.
Contact Kathleen Gray: 313-223-4430, firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @michpoligal.