Voting rights across the country are under attack, according to U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden’s office. To combat that, Wyden and Sen. Jeff Merkley introduced a bill Thursday to expand Oregon’s vote-by-mail system nationwide. Oregon Rep. Earl Blumenauer is spearheading a related measure in the House. The bill – the Vote By Mail Act of 2016 – would require every state to provide registered voters the chance to vote by mail and send ballots and pre-paid envelopes out at least two weeks before an election. It would also amend the National Voter Registration Act of 1993 to provide for automatic voter registration through a state’s department of motor vehicles.
In 2000, Oregon became the first state in the country to vote entirely by mail – a move proponents say allows voters to avoid long lines at polling places and makes voting more accessible for groups often disenfranchised. Washington and Colorado also vote exclusively by mail, and 22 other states allow some elections to be conducted by mail.
“Too many states are making working Americans, people of color, young people and those with disabilities go to absurd lengths just to exercise their constitutional right to vote,” Wyden said in a statement. “Government can never truly represent the American people if citizens don’t have the opportunity to have their voices heard at the ballot box.”