Over objections from Republican lawmakers, the Oregon House on Tuesday passed a bill aimed at automatically registering hundreds of thousands of additional voters in Oregon. Democrats, saying the legislation is is designed to remove hurdles to voting, pushed through House Bill 3521 on a largely party-line vote of 32-28. The measure is the centerpiece of a drive by Secretary of State Kate Brown to give Oregon one of the most expansive voter rolls in the nation. However, the infighting over the legislation has turned intensely partisan, with all but one Republican – Rep. Bob Jenson of Pendleton – voting against the bill. Three Democrats also voted no.
The bill faces a more difficult test in the Senate, where Sen. Betsy Johnson, D-Scappoose, has expressed her opposition and all the Republicans appear opposed.
The measure calls for using driver’s license data from the state to automatically register people if they are citizens and meet other criteria for voting. Under the bill, the secretary of state’s office would send a postcard to all new registrants giving them a chance to opt out of registering.
Brown, a Democrat, estimates the bill could add about 500,000 new registered voters in Oregon. Currently, just under 2.2 million are registered to vote, about 75 percent of those estimated to meet the eligibility for voting.