Oregon Secretary of State Kate Brown is on a mission to make voter registration easier in her state than anywhere else in the country. So easy, in fact, it’s automatic. Brown, now in her second term, is pushing for legislation that would instantly register voters based on information gleaned from their DMV records. The plan would make Oregon the only state in the country to automatically register voters. “I’m really passionate about this issue,” says Brown, who added that registration should not keep people from participating in their “fundamental right” to vote. Brown said her interest in the topic began last fall when she worked extensively with Rock the Vote. “As a result of a lot of work and a lot of time and energy we registered about 2,000 students on National Voter Registration Day,” Brown says. “I kept pushing my folks, saying ‘there’s got to be a better way.’” Brown’s plan, introduced in the state House last month, would allow Oregon to automatically register new voters at the time they apply for a driver’s license. Those new voters would initially be registered as unaffiliated with any political party. At a later date, they’d receive a postcard by mail allowing them to choose a party affiliation or opt out of voter registration altogether, should they desire. The state’s House Rules Committee held a hearing on the legislation last month, and Brown expects another one in the coming weeks.
In some states, the DMV asks people applying for driver’s licenses if they want to register to vote. If they say yes, they fill out a form on the spot indicating that choice, and they get registered. But the Oregon plan is different. About 500,000 eligible voters who aren’t registered — but are already in the DMV database — would automatically become registered in a process that would begin Jan. 1, 2014. Residents would automatically get registered when they get new driver’s licenses, and their voter registration would be updated when they update or renew those licenses.
The effort would work in tandem with the unique system of voting in Oregon, launched in 1998, in which residents receive ballots by mail and either send them back or drop them off at designated sites. That system has led to Oregon having some of the highest turnout rates in the nation (Washington is the only other state with vote-by-mail). But Brown says while the system means high turnout, it doesn’t mean high registration rates. About a quarter of eligible Oregon voters weren’t registered as of Election Day 2012.
As it stands, about 10 states allow residents to register to vote on Election Day in an effort to making voting more accessible. Brown’s idea is to take the same principle behind same-day voting and adopt it to Oregon, which exclusively relies on ballots-by-mail.
Full Article: Oregon May Be 1st with Automatic Voter Registration.