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State moves to boost voter registration

Governor Cuomo and his aides have announced a plan to increase voter registration, allowing on line vote registration for the first time, by linking the process to Internet applications for drivers licenses.

Up until now, New Yorkers could register to vote when they went to their local Department of Motor Vehicle Office to update their driver’s license, or non-driver’s ID card. Now, they will be able to complete the process on line.

The move was praised by representatives of government reform groups, including the League of Women Voters’ Sally Robinson.

“We believe that this will be a great convenience to the voters of the state,” said Robinson, who called it a “big step forward”.

The governor’s special counsel for ethics, Jeremy Creelan, says the process, in addition to increasing voter participation, will also reduce fraud. He says all of the proof of identity documents needed for a driver’s license will be required before the voter registration can be processed.

“You couldn’t imagine a system that’s more secure than this one,” Creelan said.

And he says, it’s the local Board of Elections that actually determine whether or not someone is eligible to vote.

The Cuomo Administration will make a special effort to reach out to non English speakers, by offering the voter registration forms in Spanish , as well as Chinese, Korean, and Bengali.  Efforts to reach out to Hispanic voters normally lead to more Democratic voters on the rolls, since Latinos tend to identify more with the Democratic than the Republican Party.

Nationally, Democrats have been making an effort to encourage more Hispanics to vote.

But Creelan says the effort by the Cuomo Administration  to increase voter participation  has nothing to do with politics.

“It’s not,” he said.

For this election cycle, staff at the Department of Motor Vehicles will still have to print out the voter registration forms, and then mail them to the proper county or city board of elections offices. Cuomo aides say they hope that soon, the local boards of election will be able to accept the DMV voter registration applications electronically.

The changes will save time, money and postage, says Cuomo counsel Mylan Denerstein, who says the savings will total at least $270,000 per year.

And they say there aren’t any new costs to create the online voter registration program, describing the change as simply a  “software tweak”.     

They say there aren’t any new costs to create the online voter registration program, describing the change as simply a  “software tweak”.     

Karen DeWitt is Capitol Bureau Chief for New York State Public Radio, a network of 10 public radio stations in New York State. WBFO listeners are accustomed to hearing DeWitt’s insightful coverage throughout the day, including expanded reports on Morning Edition.