At a time of strict voter ID laws and low-turnout elections, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand wants to beef up voter rolls in New York and nationwide with a bill to expand online registration.
The Voter Registration Modernization Act would make states set up ways for voters to register online and offer $15 million in grants. For the 25 states that offer residents the opportunity to register online, more forms of identification would be accepted; in New York, only those with a state-issued ID like a driver's license can use the online registration.
"When it comes to voting, we are still living in the 20th century because only half of our nation is eligible to register to vote online," said Gillibrand, who is introducing the bill Monday.
Gillibrand said the bill has been discussed with a dozen Republican senators.
Voting in New York is particularly abysmal, with the state ranking 49th in the nation with 29% turnout among the active 10.9 million registered voters, according to a Nonprofit Vote report on the midterm elections. That was the lowest share of voters heading to the polls in more than seven decades.
When asked about New York voters' disinterest, Gillibrand said "I think the political pundits can answer that question better. I think there's a lot of discussion about voters just feeling disillusioned."
Michael Waldman, president of the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law, said barriers to registration are one factor in low turnout, along with uncompetitive elections in carefully drawn districts and a loosely regulated campaign finance system.
"Statistically, in states that have improved their election systems, the more people are registered, the more people vote," he said.