Call it “motor voter” on steroids. New legislation signed into law today in Oregon paves the way for the state to one day have close to 100% voter registration. The new law takes the federal “motor voter” law to new levels and registers a person to vote when they obtain or renew a state driver’s license or ID – and it’s partially retroactive. The law dictates that once residents interact with the state DMV – whether to get a license or ID for the first time, or renew an existing one – they’ll become registered to vote if they aren’t already. The registration will be provisional for 21 days, during which time applicants will be notified of their new status and be given a chance to become affiliated with a political party or to opt-out of the voting process altogether. In essence, Oregon will now be the first state to approach voting with an “opt-out” mindset, as opposed to “opt-in.”
The law will be a personal victory for Gov. Kate Brown, who came into office four weeks ago following the resignation of Gov. John Kitzhaber amid scandal. Brown, a Democrat, submitted the legislation at the beginning of the state’s 2015 legislative session while she was serving as secretary of state.
“A couple of legislative sessions ago, we realized that thousands of Oregonians had registered to vote after the 21-day cutoff,” Brown said. “In the last general election 29,000 registration forms were submitted after the deadline and they weren’t able to get a ballot.”
State election officials say the new law could boost the state’s rolls by as many as 300,000 voters. Oregon currently has about 2.2 million registered voters – and a voting population of nearly 3 million, according to the 2010 Census. “It won’t happen overnight, but over a period and prior to the 2016 election,” Brown said.