Washington County Commissioner Greg Malinowski is among a slew of statewide county officials opposing a bill that would automatically register an estimated 500,000 potential Oregon voters. Secretary of State Kate Brown’s proposal to use DMV data to put people on the voter registration rolls is heavy-handed and convoluted, Malinowski and other officials at an Association of Oregon Counties meeting this week said. For the most part, commissioners took issue not with the sentiment of the bill but the execution. “Don’t use a two-by-four if you can use a matchstick to fix a problem,” Malinowski said at a Washington County work session in Hillsboro the next day. Brown came before the AOC’s legislative committee seeking the group’s neutrality, if not support, and instead faced a growing tide of frustration. Aside from three abstentions, the remaining 31 officials voted to oppose the current version of the bill.
Chief among the group’s complaints is sending ballots to essentially all eligible Oregonians — including those who don’t want to vote — with little guarantee on the return.
Brown has altered language in the bill, offering what she said is a “robust” two-week opt-out period for those who don’t wish to be registered. Brown also said the new approach will alleviate surges in paperwork before elections and during voter registration drives.
The state will spend at least $3 million to upgrade the counties’ election technology, Brown said.
“Registration was not designed to be a barrier to voting,” Brown said.
James Morales, head of Oregon’s Association of County Clerks, said estimates put the initial cost to counties at about $1 million.
But cost was more of an issue for smaller counties. Other commissioners, including Malinowski, said the problem was that it seemed like a complicated bill that didn’t solve the real problem — the 20-day cutoff to register before elections.