The first Georgian to register to vote online, or by smartphone, Westside High School valedictorian Eniolufe Asebiomo signed up in Augusta before an audience of hundreds of elections officials from across the state.
Asebiomo called the new technology, unveiled Monday by Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp, “a really a good step, that innovates technology into the civic process” at the conference of elections officials, held this week at Augusta Convention Center.
Surprised by the crowds who shook his hand and took photos with him Monday, Asebiomo said he has grown interested in the intersection of technology, education and policy. While such technology might give rise to such things as mobile voter registration, Asebiomo says he may study it at one of the ivy-league institutions that have offered him an education.
“I feel like it’s good for politicians to learn all the literary skills, but a lot of what we’re missing in higher-level government officials is having that dual knowledge in electronics and engineering as well. I hope to combine those two roles and bring something different to the table,” he said.
Kemp said the new system, which requires voters to have a Georgia driver’s license or state ID, will save counties time and money. The system transmits an electronic copy of a voter’s drivers license or state ID to the secretary of state’s office.
“Georgians deserve to be able to register to vote or change their information with as much ease as possible. This not only will provide benefits to the voter, but also for all 159 counties,” Kemp said.
Kemp also announced new mobile applications, called “GA Votes” – available for Android and Apple phones – that allow prospective voters to register, and registered voters to view a sample ballot, early voting and election day polling locations and the status of voter registration and absentee ballots.
Lynn Bailey, the executive director for Richmond County Board of Elections, said she expected online registration and registration by smartphone to be a “very popular option” for Georgia voters.
“It is an easy, convenient, and most importantly, a safe way to register. It gives citizens a tremendous resource that may be used, not just from a computer, but also as a mobile app,” Bailey said.
Important to remember is that prospective voters must possess a Georgia driver’s license or state ID to register online, she said. If they don’t, they are directed to a downloadable document they can sign and return to the registrar’s office, Bailey said.
Still, while the new technology is good, not everyone has access, said Shirley Nixon, who distributes registration forms the old-fashioned way. Nixon, who registered some 14,000 voters ahead of the last two presidential elections, said she registered five in time for May 20 elections at a Tuesday mayoral candidates forum.
“I think it’s OK, but a lot of people don’t know how to use computers,” Nixon said. “They’re kind of getting upset about it ... but I tell them to go ahead and register.”
Bobby Howington, the elections supervisor in Morgan County who attended the convention, said he hopes the new technologies will increase voter registration and engagement overall.
“It’s another facet we have to get people registered, get them in the process of voting,” Howington said. “It’s going to be a lot of education involved, getting the media blitz on it, making people aware it’s available.”