California’s experiment in fully online voter registration appears to have been a success. “Online registration contributed significantly to an increase in 2012 youth registrants and modestly to overall increases in general registration rates,” claims a University of California, Davis, study of the 2012 election, which finds that online voting boosted youth registration an entire percent (10.1 percent to 11.1 percent) in its short one-month existence prior to the election [PDF].
Researcher Mindy Romero of the Center for Regional Change tells TechCrunch that the study can’t identify for certain whether all of those extra registrants would have done so anyways in the absence of an online system, but the substantial boost is a good omen for states considering online registration in the future.
The boost in turnout might have indeed been due to the convenience of online registration, considering overall turnout actually declined from 2008 (57 percent to 50 percent), according to Pew in September of last year. Youth were by far the largest demographic of online registrants, comprising 30 percent of all those who used the system.
Also of note, many young adults declined to state a party preference (29 percent), making them the only demographic in California to fall below 40 percent. “Youth are driving the general electorate’s decline in major party registration,” explains the report. This jives with UC Irvine’s Russell Dalton’s work, The Apartisan American, which finds a growing movement of citizens who claim no party affiliation, and aren’t simply closet Democrats or Republicans who actually always vote along party lines.
It’s early days for electronic voting and registration, but it may very well cause a significant shift in political behavior.
[Image Credit: Flickr User erin leigh mcconnell]