COLUMBUS -- Four years ago, 130,000 Ohioans were prohibited from casting regular ballots during the presidential election because their current addresses didn't match the information in the state's voter database.
Secretary of State Jon Husted on Thursday unveiled an online system that would allow registered voters to update their information long before Election Day to avoid being handed a provisional ballot that would not be counted until days later after the voter's eligibility has been verified.
"[The 130,000 provisional ballots were] about 65 percent of all of the provisional ballots cast in the election," he said. "So if voters take advantage of this new tool and update their addresses online, it is likely that a lot fewer of them would have to vote a provisional ballot."
Oct. 9 is the deadline to register for this election as well as to change names and addresses in the registration database.
"People have become accustomed to using eBay, PayPal, banking online, making travel reservations," Mr. Husted said. "It's a system that is something that we do in our daily lives in many ways, and voters will be very comfortable and, frankly, have come to expect these kinds of services."
The Ohio Association of Election Officials applauded the move.
"This is the wave of the future," President Llyn McCoy said. "It is something numerous voters have expressed an interest in, and I'm pleased to see it in place. While not full blown online registration, today's announcement moves us farther down the path to complete automation."
Ohioans will not be able to use the system to actually register. That must still be done by mail or in person at county boards of election or other approved locations with the information entered into the database manually by county employees.
Mr. Husted, a Republican, said he will continue to advocate for a change in state law to allow online registration.
"I believe that registering online would make our system more accessible and more secure," he said. "I think it's an important priority for continuing to improve Ohio's election system."
By visiting www.MyOhioVote.com, voters can update their information after first providing four pieces of information -- their last names, driver's license numbers, the last four digits of their Social Security numbers, and their birth dates.
State Rep. Teresa Fedor (D., Toledo) liked the move, but said it won't address the larger issue of too many provisional ballots being cast on Election Day.
"The problem of huge numbers of ballots being rejected due to innocent error by poll workers will persist even with this change," she said. "In 2008, in Lucas County, 2,400 provisional ballots were rejected, many due to poll worker error. Even if that were cut in half -- and there is no guarantee that will happen -- that number would still be unacceptable."
Peg Rosenfeld, elections specialist with the League of Women Voters of Ohio, said online registration updates are a good idea -- as long as you have access to a computer.
"But of course we keep reading that there is an electronic divide between the people who are better off and the people who are less well off, and between the young and elderly," she said. "[Mr. Husted] made the point that people can continue to register the old way on paper, and it will be on all of us who've worked for years to get people to register and for the campaigns to register folks and make sure their information is up to date."