Politics

If a legislative committee signs off on a new regulation later this month, Kentuckians will soon be able to register to vote online.

Twenty-one states allow voters to register online, which Democratic Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes has advocated for during her tenure.

Kentucky already allows members of the military and overseas voters to register on the web. In a statement, Grimes said that program has been a “tremendous success,” and she hopes expanding online registration to all Kentuckians would lead to greater participation.

The initiative has its opponents. Dan Rose, president of Lexington-based Americans First, which calls itself a pro-U.S. citizen organization, said online registration would lead to an increase in voter fraud by removing from the process some of the people who oversee registration forms.

Rose said voter registrations can be fraudulently obtained by using fake Social Security or federal tax identification numbers.

But Joshua Douglas, a professor of election law at the University of Kentucky, said the concern about voter fraud is “overblown.”

“Yeah, there could potentially be some people to game the system and fraudulently register — I don’t see how online voter registration increases that likelihood,” he said. “But even if it does, there’s no evidence that any of these people actually show up to vote at the polls.”

The bipartisan State Board of Elections has said voter fraud has not arisen as an issue in other states that have online voter registration. It unanimously approved the regulation earlier this summer. The initiative narrowly passed the legislature’s Administrative Regulation Review Subcommittee in July.

A bill that would have established an electronic voter registration system passed the Democratic-led state House in a 92-3 vote, but the Republican-led Senate never took it up.

Grimes noted the partisan divide over the issue earlier this month in her speech at the Fancy Farm Picnic.

“Now, when it comes to implementing electronic voter registration, Republicans are saying we can’t do it. But guess what? We will do it anyways,” Grimes said.

According to state law, an administrative regulation does not have to be approved by the full legislature.

The elections board said implementing the new system would cost about $45,000 but save county clerks a total of as much as $100,000.

The legislature’s Interim Joint Committee on State Government will take up the issue on Aug. 26.

Ryland Barton is the Capitol bureau chief for Kentucky Public Radio.