March 5, 2013 By Steve Towns
It may have been brief, but California’s one-month experiment with online voter registration running up to the November general election told us a lot. In particular, it told us that if there was any doubt about citizen desire to register online, California’s experience erased it.
From the time the new registration system opened online on Sept. 19 to its close on Oct. 21, more than half of the 1.2 million voters who registered did so through the new online system. It was undoubtedly the state’s most popular voter registration option.
“We thought that was quite striking,” says Mindy Romero, project director for the California Civic Engagement Project. The research organization, part of the Center for Regional Change at the University of California, Davis, is combing through the November numbers to measure the impact of online registration on the state’s electorate. Based on what the group has seen so far, Romero says it’s likely that online registration will be the state’s dominant voter registration option from now on.
Although online registration was popular with all registrants, it was particularly effective at pulling younger citizens into the state’s voting pool. Residents under age 25 accounted for 30 percent of all online registrants -- helping to drive an 8 percent increase in voter registration in that age bracket, Romero says.
Online registrants also went to the polls, she added, contradicting the notion that citizens using a more convenient registration option may be too lazy or apathetic to cast a ballot. Instead, voters who registered online turned out at a higher rate -- about 8 percentage points higher -- than those who registered through other methods.
This Digital Communities white paper highlights discussions with IT officials in four counties that have adopted shared services models. Our aim was to learn about the obstacles these governments have faced when it comes to shared services and what it takes to overcome those roadblocks. We also spoke with several members of the IT industry who have thought long and hard about these issues. The paper offers some best practices for shared government-to-government services, but also points out challenges that government and industry still must overcome before this model gains widespread adoption.