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Online voter signup is ‘good government,’ state official says

Kemp, Hall elections director back Senate bill to add Web registration option

POSTED: March 18, 2010 10:59 p.m.

The next step in the use of technology in the voting process is making its way through the state legislature.

The Senate approved a bill Wednesday, mostly among party lines, that would allow Georgians with a valid driver’s license or identification card to register to vote online.

The bill, which passed 33-20, now goes to the House.

Seven other states have such a law, which supporters say will speed up the process for local voting offices while making it more convenient for voters.

Secretary of State Brian Kemp says the online option will save money in the registration process.

“It allows the process to be easier and more accessible, and it’s secure,” Kemp said in a visit Thursday with The Times editorial board. “It takes out human error, which is a factor with motor voter (registration). ... It’s good government in that it saves local governments money. And it’s green by doing away with more paper.”

Charlotte Sosebee, interim director of elections in Hall County, agrees.

“In this day and time, convenience is the word,” she said. “This is definitely something that would be beneficial to us.”

Under the proposal, eligible voters could apply online through the secretary of state’s Web site, which would verify applicants’ information.

“If you move, you have to change everything you have, though now you can do much of it online,” Kemp said. “This does the same with voter registration. You shouldn’t have to drive somewhere to produce all the necessary paperwork. This keeps you from having to fool with that.”

Critics in the Senate voiced concerns that the plan could be harmful to minority voters and might not meet approval by the U.S. Department of Justice. Sen. Vincent Fort, D-Atlanta, called it “a solution in search of a problem.”

A Georgia law requiring verification of prospective voters’ citizenship has been blocked by the Justice Department. Kemp said Thursday he has asked Georgia Attorney General Thurbert Baker to file suit on the state’s behalf to allow the law to be enacted.

Kemp remains optimistic that the latest voter change will pass the legislature and meet federal scrutiny.

“I think in the House, members will say that this is a reasonable change,” Kemp said. “It’s already easy to register to vote; this is just another option.”

Kemp, an Athens Republican, was in Gainesville to speak at the Girl Scouts’ Woman of Distinction luncheon. He was appointed secretary of state by Gov. Sonny Perdue after Karen Handel resigned at year’s end to focus on her campaign for governor. Kemp is running for the post full time and will be on the primary ballot against GOP challenger Doug MacGinnitie of Sandy Springs. Six Democrats also seek the office.

Hall and surrounding counties face a busy election year. In addition to the July 20 state primary and Nov. 2 general election, a special election will be needed to fill the seat of U.S. 9th District Rep. Nathan Deal, who plans to resign by month’s end to focus on his campaign for governor.

“People are calling already,” Sosebee said. “We’re getting calls every day from people asking when is the primary, asking about something.”

The Associated Press contributed to this story.



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