By GRANT SCHULTE
LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) - Nebraska residents who are eligible to vote will be able to register and update their registrations online under a new system that Secretary of State John Gale plans to launch this week.
The secretary of state’s office will unveil the new project website Tuesday as part of National Voter Registration Day, said spokeswoman Laura Strimple.
Gale has said the new system will mark one of the biggest technological advancements in voter registration in years. It also has been shown to boost voter registrations in other states that adopted the technology.
“Online voter registration is really the tip of the spear when it comes to modernizing our election system in Nebraska,” said state Sen. Adam Morfeld of Lincoln, the executive director of the voting-rights group Nebraskans for Civic Reform. “There’s a lot of work to be done, but this is a great first step.”
The new website managed by the secretary of state’s office will allow Nebraska residents to register with a valid driver’s license or photo identification. Nebraska has about 1.1 million registered voters.
Morfeld said the new system will improve access to voting and likely increase turnout among highly mobile groups, such as college students and low-income residents. It also meets the demands of a public that already uses the Internet to file taxes and pay bills, he said.
The online system was approved by lawmakers and former Gov. Dave Heineman last year, and required collaboration from the secretary of state’s office, the Department of Motor Vehicles, the Office of the Chief Information Officer and two private firms.
Nebraska joins 23 other states that have started using an online registration system, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. Arizona was the first state to do so in 2002, and Pennsylvania and Hawaii launched their systems last month. New technology has helped the registration lists become more accurate, secure and cost-effective, said Katy Owens Hubler, a senior policy specialist for the group.
“It’s really gained steam in recent years,” Owens Hubler said. “It typically has bipartisan support. It’s one of those things in election administration that everyone can agree on.”
Iowa Secretary of State Paul Pate announced last week that voters in his state with a driver’s license or photo identification will be able to register to vote online by Jan. 1.
Nebraska’s system will allow state officials to use an applicant’s driver’s license signature to register a new voter, rather than relying on paper registration forms. The state DMV already lets voters register when applying for a driver’s license.
Nebraskans for Civic Reform is working to spread word about the new system while encouraging greater voter participation. The organization is hosting an educational event at 9 a.m. Tuesday on the University of Nebraska at Omaha’s Barbara Weitz Community Engagement Center, said BrI McLarty, the group’s director of voting rights.