Online voter information lookup tools and registration are becoming more common across the country. Forty states and the District of Columbia allowed voters to check their registration status online in 2012, 14 states currently allow voters to register online, and several other states will implement online voter registration systems over the course of the next year.
In Colorado, not only have these tools changed how people register and check their information, they have also affected other parts of the election process. Members of Pueblo Freedom and Rights, a grassroots group with the goal of recalling a state senator, used the state’s online tools to help gather the signatures needed to get their measure on the ballot. Organization activists sat outside businesses and in parking lots armed with computers and tablets to provide real-time confirmation that people signing their petitions were registered and lived in the correct district. In several instances, individuals who were not registered but wanted to sign the petition were able to register on the spot.
Petition gatherers often have trouble getting a sufficient number of valid signatures, sometimes collecting double the required amount to be sure that enough meet state requirements. Pueblo Freedom and Rights submitted 13,466 signatures, just 2,181 more than the required 11,285, and only 6 percent were deemed invalid. By comparison, another group gathering signatures to recall a different state senator did not use the online tools, and 37 percent of its signatures were deemed ineligible.