Cuomo Expands Voter Registration Access
A sweeping new initiative to expand access to voter registration and streamline DMV services has been launched by Governor Andrew M. Cuomo. For the first time ever, New Yorkers will be able to apply to register to vote, or update their address or party enrollment, through a secure online site.
“Governor Cuomo asked the Department of Motor Vehicles to re-examine how we did business and to find ways to make government more accessible to the public,” said DMV Commissioner Barbara J. Fiala. “Getting away from paper applications and making use of the technology we are announcing today will improve efficiency, be cost effective, and better serve the people of New York State.”
New York currently ranks 47th in the nation in voter registration, with less than 64% of eligible residents registered to vote.
The DMV processes roughly 300,000 motor voter applications a year. This is currently a cumbersome and time-consuming manual process, where drivers fill out paper forms at one of 129 DMV branches, which then have to be sorted and mailed by hand to one of the county boards of elections. This process is prone to human error, delays and, in some cases, to applications not getting processed.
The new system will replace the vast majority of paper forms and allow for the centralization and digital transmission of voter registration applications.
Under the new program persons with a driver’s license or non-driver’s ID seeking to register, or to update their address or party enrollment information, can do so online, through DMV’s “MyDMV” Web site https://my.dmv.- ny.gov. MyDMV requires users to create a secure online account that is validated through the verification of personal information, such as date of birth, social security number, address, and license document number. Applicants must have a valid New York State license or identification card to qualify, which are issued after a rigorous, in-person identity proofing process at a DMV office. More than 700,000 New Yorkers currently have a MyDMV account and that number is growing daily.
In addition, new computerized electronic data entry (or VeriFone) devices are available at each DMV location. These new electronic terminals will allow registrants to apply to register to vote or update their registration information electronically without complet- ing any paper forms.
These transactions will be overseen by DMV representatives and are subject to the same security standards as the current system. The devices are also equipped to handle credit card transactions for DMV business.
These new applications will include a digital copy of a voter’s “wet” signature that drivers provide to the DMV when they are issued a license or non-driver ID. The signature transmitted to the county BOE is the same signature that appears on their DMV-issued license.
Once the program is fully implemented, the applications will be electronically transferred via both XML file and pdf to the county board of elections, a process often referred to as “automated” registration. The county boards will thus be able to eliminate the manual data entry that is now required to process paper application forms.
In the interim, the DMV will print the electronically-captured voter registration applications with a digitized signature and mail them from their central Albany office to the county boards of elections. This will mean that DMV’s batching and mailing from its local offices will be largely eliminated, reducing costs. The county boards will receive a single daily document drop that will be easier to process, track, and scan.
This has resulted in increased voter registration rates from online and automated DMV registration. According to the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law,
14 states—Arizona, California,
Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware,
Hawaii, Indiana, Kansas,
Louisiana, Maryland, Nevada,
Oregon, Utah, and Washington— currently or will soon offer online voter registration. Registration rates among 18-24 year-old citizens rose from 28 to 53 percent after Arizona introduced online and automated registration. A recent study of Arizona’s online registration system found that young and minority voters are disproportionately likely to register online. After registration was automated at DMVs, DMV voter registrations nearly doubled in Washington and
Kansas and increased seven-fold in
Cost Savings have also resulted from online and automated DMV registration. Studies in Arizona and Delaware have demonstrated substantial cost savings for DMVs and county governments from automated and online voter registration. In New York State, cost savings for
DMV alone are estimated to be at least $270,000 annually. Additional savings for the county boards of elections once their software has been programmed to accept electronically the voter registration applications is estimated to be at least $150,000 annually.
Automated voter registration has increased accuracy.