In Pennsylvania, online voter registration a boon to young voters

    Marian K. Schneider

    Marian K. Schneider

    In August 2015, Pennsylvania launched an all-online option for voter registration. Perhaps unsurprisingly, young people are taking advantage of the online shortcut in droves, according to the most recent numbers from the Pennsylvania Department of State.

    Since January 1, 2016, 258,159 users have visited register.votespa.com to change a party affiliation, address or to register to vote. The Department of State doesn’t break out demographics other than age, but the largest share of users (88,513) were under 24. The next largest group was 25- to 34-year-olds (73,115).

    The process to register is entirely online, as long as users are able to take a picture of their signature to submit electronically. After submitted to the state, county voter registration offices take about two weeks to certify the information and mail out a voter registration card.

    Social media — increasingly relevant for campaigning and fundraising — have also played a big role in publicizing the registration tool, said Pennsylvania Deputy Secretary of Elections and Administration Marian Schneider.

    “Facebook ran a promotion last week on voter registration and we had a huge spike. We had 37,000 registrants in a 24-hour period,” she said. “And then the next day, we had 15,000.”

    While young people logged on in the greatest number, users cut across all age categories and came from all counties, according to Schneider.

    At a March 28th presentation at Delaware County Community College’s Upper Darby Center, about 30 students and community members came to learn how to register online and what to expect at their polling place. The Pennsylvania Department of State targeted colleges with workshops about voting rights in Pennsylvania and explainers on how to be prepared to cast your ballot.

    Tyyaira Headen, 20, was one of the residents attending the meeting. Afterward, she said it took “like two minutes” to register to vote for the first time at one of the desktop computers set up in the meeting room for that express purpose.

    While she’s been able to vote for two years, Headen said she was moved to register to vote this year “because I didn’t register last year and I do not want Donald Trump to be president.”

    She registered as a Democrat but said she doens’t have a favorite candidate.

    So far this cycle, Pennsylvania has seen more new registrants than 2012, but not as many as during the 2008 election cycle, according to Schneider. A lively presidential primary is expected for both parties this year, whereas in 2008 the Republican vote had already solidified around candidate John McCain.

    In Pennsylvania, March 28th is the last day to register to vote — online or at your county voter registration office — be able to weigh in during the April 26th presidential primary.

    Pennsylvania is one of 34 states, including Delaware but not New Jersey, that have voted to authorize registration over the internet.

    Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

    It will take 126,000 members this year for great news and programs to thrive. Help us get to 100% of the goal.