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Online Voter Sign-Up OK'd For Suffolk

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  • Online Voter Sign-Up OK'd For Suffolk

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    ALBANY — State Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman is giving Suffolk the go-ahead to become the first county in the state to allow online voter
    registration, in a legal opinion that could have widespread impact on counties and voters across New York.

    New York allows voters to register through Department of Motor Vehicles websites, using digital signatures on driver’s licenses and ID cards that are on
    file. But Schneiderman’s determination could result in expansion of online registration. In a letter to Suffolk County, his office said counties could register
    voters through an electronic signature process.
    “In sum, we are of the opinion that a registration application can be completed electronically — with an electronically- affixed handwritten signature
    identifiable as the applicant’s,” Kathryn Sheingold, an assistant solicitor general, wrote to Suffolk County Attorney Dennis Brown.

    The signed registration forms also must be printed and mailed to the board of elections. “Indeed, such electronically- facilitated voter registration
    is, in our opinion, consistent with the express legislative policy of encouraging the broadest possible voter participation in elections,” Sheingold
    Schneiderman aides say the opinion is nonbinding but could jump-start a move to implement online voter registration around the state. The office
    is “exploring convening civic and technology organizations to develop mobile and online applications that would be able to host a voter registration
    form that could be fully completed online,” the aides said.

    Twenty-nine states including New York have some form of electronic sign-up, officials said.
    “At a time in New York where our citizens experience too many barriers to participation, I am gratified that this opinion invites a new era of
    truly online voter registration... ,” Schneiderman said in a statement. “I encourage civic and technology groups to develop an online registration system
    that can bring our electoral process into the 21st century.” Suffolk County had written to Schneiderman in February asking if state law permits online
    voter registration, “particularly with regard to whether the signature component must be handwritten.” Brown noted that online registrations
    through the state DMV allow the use of electronic signatures.

    Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone said, “Incorporating a digital and mobile component would not only be more convenient for many prospective
    voters, it would break down one more barrier for those who have disabilities or find it difficult to register in person.” Suffolk election officials say
    they played no part in initiating the request with Schneiderman’s office.

    "Any man who is good enough to shed his blood for his country is good enough to be given a square deal afterwards. More than that no man is entitled, and less than that no man shall have."
    President T. Roosevelt