Oregon Expands 'Motor Voter' Laws, Enacts Automatic Voter Registration

| by Ethan Brown

All eligible voters in Oregon will automatically be registered to vote when they receive or renew a driver’s license or state ID card, thanks to a bill signed by Democratic Gov. Kate Brown on Aug. 3.

Voters who are registered after this change will have three weeks to remove themselves from the voting docket; if they continue to stay as a registered voter, they will receive a ballot from the secretary of state’s office 20 days prior to an election, the Los Angeles Times reported.

“In my role as secretary of state, I proposed a new way of registering to vote,” Brown said during the signing of the legislation. “We call it ‘new motor voter.’ It was my top priority, and I am absolutely thrilled to be signing this into law as the new governor … Virtually every Oregonian will be able to have their voice be heard.”

The Motor Voter law was passed by the federal government in the early 1990s as a way to increase voter participation and registration via the Department of Motor Vehicles. Oregon’s law is seen as an expansion of the original Motor Voter law and of the state’s own all-mail voting laws, Oregon Live noted. For example, Oregonians have been able to vote from home since 1998, when legislation was passed implementing the all-mail voting method. In terms of voter turnout, it has worked well for the state with 70 percent of registered voters casting ballots during the 2014 elections,according to the Times.

“This bill is about making government work better, treating citizens as customers and giving them access to the service they expect,” Brown added. “When someone moves to Oregon, why should they have to fill out multiple forms for multiple agencies? They should be able to complete one form, one time.”

Republicans, who make up the minority in the state’s House and Senate chambers, objected to the legislation by stressing concerns about privacy matters for residents and an increase in potential voter fraud. Kim Thatcher, a Republican state Senator, said the law “will expose Oregon citizens’ private information” and put victims of sexual assault at risk once again.

Sources: Oregon Live, Los Angeles Times

Photo Credit: Kate Brown/Flickr, kristen_ausk/Flickr