Despite some gains made in the 2007-2008 election cycle, it is clear that significant problems with the U.S. voter registration system persist. Disparities in demographic representation in the registered electorate remain, particularly in categories of race/ethnicity, income, educational attainment, and age.
These disparities are exacerbated by federal and state laws that govern voter registration systems, which often create multi-layered barriers to voter registration. After the historic election of November 2008, proposals to improve the U.S. voter registration system have been offered at both the federal and state level. One proposal, which has already been adopted in several states, is to allow voter registration via the internet.3 While online voter registration is a welcome new service, it is important to note that it has limitations, particularly when it comes to closing the existing demographic disparities in the voter registration rates. One obvious limitation of online voter registration is that not all U.S. households have internet access in the home.
This memo reviews available data to describe those U.S. households that do not have internet access in the home, and analyzes voter registration levels in those households based on race/ethnicity, age, educational attainment, and household income. In most cases, the demographic groups that are already less likely to be registered are also the least likely to have internet access in the home.