Thursday, March 8, 2012

How new technology is helping voters, one at a time

I took a call today from a very agitated and frustrated woman who wasn't sure if she is registered to vote or not.

She told me her story, how she moved, filled out a new registration card and mailed it in to Sacramento County, didn't get anything in the mail confirming she registered, then went to the registrar's office to find out what was wrong.

They told her her card came back as "undeliverable" (even though she provided the correct address). So she filled out another card, and submitted it, and it's been two weeks and she still hasn't heard anything and doesn't know if it's fixed or not.

She's called the Secretary of State, whose staff assured her her new application would cancel out the old one that had been deemed "undeliverable". And now she was calling us.

After calming her down a bit, I told her we could check online together. I went to the Sacramento County online registration lookup tool (one of 25 of 58 the California Voter Foundation links to on our County Election Office directory page).

I asked her her street number, zip code and birthdate and entered them into the online form. A message was returned that I read to her over the phone confirming a matching voter registration record was found. She breathed a sigh of relief and blessed me.

As this map shows, whether voters have access to online voter registration lookup tools depends on the county, and largely the region where voters reside. Voters in larger, coastal counties have access while voters in smaller, rural counties mostly do not.

Voters without online access (all the counties in grey) must contact their elections office in person or over the phone to during business hours to check their registration status or get answers to their registration questions.

Unfortunately due to delays in implementing a new statewide voter registration system, lookup tool access will not be available to voters statewide until 2015 at the earliest.

It is incredible that in a state as technologically advanced as California we can't make this simple technology available for everyone.

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