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Jul 2 / PV Admin

Voting Rights Coalition Urge Rep. to Make Online Registration Bill Fair and Uniform

A coalition of civil rights, voting rights, and civic engagement groups wrote Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-CA), sponsor of federal bill, HR 1719, to “ensure that Internet voter registration opportunities are made available to all Americans in a uniform and nondiscriminatory manner.”

The group, which includes Project Vote, expressed concern about “Voter Registration Modernization Act of 2009, a bill to require states to make online voter registration available to eligible citizens who wish to register or update their information online. In the letter, the group wrote:

“ Our organizations are concerned that states are developing online voter registration systems that are restricted to those who have a driver’s license or other identification from state motor vehicle authorities. We are also concerned that these online systems are developing without regard to the protections provided by the National Voter Registration Act (NVRA) and the Help America Vote Act (HAVA). And we are additionally concerned that online registration be made available to the citizens of all the states, not just some of them.”

“First, it is vitally important that online voter registration opportunities be available to all eligible American citizens, without regard to economic status, electronic access status, age, race, ethnic origin or other factor,” the coalition contends. For example, Internet access at home is often related to income or education-attainment.

Compared to 73.9 percent of U.S. panel homes that have Internet access, only 39 percent of those with no high school degree report having Internet at home, and just 41 percent of citizens earning $25,000 per year or less have online access, according to a 2009 Project Vote research memo by consultant, Jody Herman. African-American and Latino citizens are also less likely to have Internet access at home (63%). Latinos, in particular, demonstrate low voter registration rates at 12 percentage points behind the voting eligible population in addition to their greater likelihood to lack of Internet access.

The bill was introduced in March 2009 and referred to the Committee on House Administration, where Lofgren, chairs the Election Subcommittee. Committee consideration of the bill is expected before the August recess.

Learn more about pending online voter registration bills by downloading project vote’s new Election Legislation 2010: Threats & Opportunities Assessment Update.

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