Oregon Secretary of State Kate Brown on Wednesday pitched legislators on a new version of her ambitious plan to automatically register hundreds of thousands of potential voters in the state. Brown said she has agreed to changes to address privacy concerns, as well as worries from minor political parties faced with rapidly increasing their numbers to keep their ballot status. Brown’s changes, now embodied in House Bill 3521, didn’t satisfy Republicans, several of whom showed up to testify against the measure. However, the Democratic secretary of state did get backing from several groups that seek to increase voter registration, such as the Oregon League of Women Voters and Common Cause Oregon.
Brown has proposed to use Oregon DMV data to automatically register citizens to vote if they are not already registered. Her office has estimated that could increase the state’s voter rolls by more than 500,000 over the current total of about 2.2 million.
Critics had earlier said that many people did not want to be registered because they did not want to be listed on the state’s public record of voters. Under Brown’s new proposal, new registrants would receive a notice giving them 14 days to opt out of being registered.
In addition, only those who have turned 18 by the next election would be automatically registered. Oregon law allows people to register when they are 17 and a separate bill passed by the House proposes reducing that age to 16.
Brown also noted that elections officials would not receive drivers license data that the DMV is holding confidential for a variety of reasons, such as involving a victim of domestic abuse.
Under the new bill, minor parties would also not have to immediately worry about higher voter registration thresholds for maintaining their ballot status.