2017 Bright Idea
Commonwealth of Virginia
January 1, 2017

In 2011, the Virginia Department of Elections began laying out a vision for an online system that would enable voters to complete all voter record-related transactions, and began working to secure funding and qualified staff to make the necessary technical infrastructure changes and to secure administrative policy changes necessary to turn this vision into a reality. After the Virginia General Assembly passed a law authorizing online voter registration in 2013, Virginia launched the first phase of this new concept by introducing an online voter registration portal, enabling all voters with a Virginia DMV ID to apply to register to vote and update their registration record online.  The Department was able to use the success of this initial online offering to create widespread support for additional functionality to make the voting process more efficient.  In 2015, with the support of the Governor, the Department expanded the capability of its online voter registration portal so that registered voters could apply to vote absentee completely paperlessly.   This additional tool allows voters to more easily exercise their rights to participate in the franchise, and streamlines processes for election administrators and voters, while ensuring the integrity of the election system by confirming the identity of absentee ballot applicants through the system’s DMV sync. The program has been immensely successful, accounting for over 60 percent of all mail absentee ballot requests sent in to local election offices during the 2016 presidential election.