This week, Oregon became the first state to adopt automatic voter registration. If you’re an Oregonian over 18, and if you’ve dealt with the state’s Driver and Motor Vehicles Division since 2013, you’ll get a notice in the mail letting you know you’re registered to vote. Then, unless you opt out within three weeks, you’ll automatically receive a ballot 20 days before every election. (Oregon has all-mail voting.) Almost immediately, 300,000 more voters — a big chunk of the estimated 800,000 state residents who are eligible but still unregistered — are likely to be signed up. It’s fitting that Oregon passed its law just after the 50th anniversary of the Selma, Alabama, voting rights march. Too often people assume that the U.S. has solved its voting-rights problem, and see Selma as no more than an occasion for pride and celebration. The truth is that voting rights remain a work in progress. Oregon’s new law points to a simple, inexpensive and promising way forward.
Consider a few numbers. In 1996, 71 percent of Americans were registered to vote in presidential elections. In 2012, the rate was 71.2 percent — essentially unchanged. For the past 20 years, more than 25 percent of eligible American voters, meaning more than 50 million people, have not been registered to vote for president. Nonregistration rates are especially high for certain demographic groups — young adults, for example, and people without a lot of education, and Hispanics. (The African-American registration rate is very high.)
Registration rates are also a lot lower in some states than in others. In recent years, more than one-third of eligible citizens have remained unregistered in Arizona, Arkansas, California, Nevada, Oklahoma, Texas, Vermont and Wyoming. But even in states with relatively high rates, such as Virginia, North Carolina and Mississippi, at least 15 percent of eligible citizens are not signed up.
Full Article: Oregon’s Example for Voters Everywhere – Bloomberg View.