Nebraska will implement a new system of online voter registration this month, easing the registration process and opening the door to larger voter turnout.

"We hope to improve registration and turnout," Secretary of State John Gale said in announcing a rollout scheduled for Sept. 22.

Sen. Adam Morfeld of Lincoln, founder and executive director of Nebraskans for Civic Reform, said the new system implements a modern registration process his organization has been urging the state to adopt since 2008.

The option of online registration will modernize the process, Morfeld said, recognizing the fact that "we have a much more mobile population," increasing accessibility and opening the process to more participation by students, young professionals and low-income Nebraskans among others.

Online registration will also decrease administrative costs, he noted.

Morfeld said his organization will continue to also push for Election Day voter registration that could be accomplished in tandem with casting a vote, further increasing registration figures and voter turnout.

Gale said the new system is in the final stages of testing before it becomes operational.  

"Essentially, the new system will allow use of the applicant's driver's license signature from the Department of Motor Vehicles," Gale stated in a news release. The legislation also authorizes use of state identification cards in making online applications.

"We've been able to create a system that is streamlined, secure and will ultimately enable more accurate record-keeping in our voter registration database," the secretary of state said.

More than 20 states have implemented online voter registration, Gale said.

"It is essential to have a strong majority of eligible citizens registered and voting at all times to preserve the sense of a government of the people, by the people and for the people," Gale said.

Bri McLarty, director of voting rights with Nebraskans for Civic Reform, said the organization is "pleased the secretary of state decided to finally bring our elections into the 21st century."

Online registration was first introduced as a legislative bill in 2010, introduced again in 2011 and finally passed in the form of Sen. Bob Krist's LB661 in 2014. 

"It has been a long road to having online voter registration, given the past opposition by the secretary of state," McLarty said. Last year, Gale spoke in favor of the bill at its legislative committee hearing.

"With the 2016 presidential elections around the corner, online voter registration will increase turnout and voter participation particularly among highly mobile populations," McLarty said.

Reach the writer at 402-473-7248 or dwalton@journalstar.com.

On Twitter @LJSDon.

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Don Walton, a Husker and Yankee fan, is a longtime Journal Star political and government reporter.

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