Tennessee Legislature passes online voter registration bill

Former Macedonian Foreign Minister Srgjan Kerim gestures as he address U.N. General Assembly members about his candidacy for U.N. Secretary General, Thursday April 14, 2016 at U.N. headquarters. The United Nations is taking a historic step to open up the usually secret process of selecting the next secretary-general, giving all countries the chance to question candidates on issues. (AP Photo/Bebeto Matthews)

NASHVILLE - The General Assembly passed legislation Tuesday that would allow Tennesseans to register to vote online.

The House unanimously passed a bill that the Senate had earlier approved. The measure allows Tennesseans to go online to register to vote or update their registration records. Applicants would be directed to apply on paper if their name, date of birth or other identifying information could not be confirmed with the Department of Safety.

Rep. Gerald McCormick, R-Chattanooga, who sponsored the House bill, said there would be safeguards to discourage voter fraud.

The move toward online voter registration is part of a growing national trend backed by bipartisan support that began after Arizona first implemented its own system in 2002.

As of April 6, a total of 31 states plus the District of Columbia offer online voter registration, according to a report by the National Conference of State Legislatures. And five states within a year, including Tennessee, have moved to allow the web-based registration, said Wendy Underhill, program director for Elections and Redistricting at the group.

"This has been a trend that has moved rather rapidly and has continued to pick up steam," Underhill said. She stressed that this was online registration online and not voting.

The Internet registration systems are secure, a report released last year by the Pew Charitable Trusts said.

"Studies consistently show that online voter registration systems effectively protect voters' private information," the Pew report said. "All states employ safeguards meant to thwart cyberattacks, and to date, no state has reported a security breach."

The online voter registration system would in place by July 2017 if Gov. Bill Haslam signs the bill.