A sweeping voter registration bill that could add another 300,000 to Oregon’s voting rolls won final passage in the Oregon Senate on Thursday on a 17-13 vote and heads to Gov. Kate Brown for her promised signature. The so-called “New Motor Voter Bill” was promoted by Brown when she was secretary of state as a way to remove many of the barriers to voting, particularly for younger and poorer Oregonians who tend to move more often. Republicans, however, charged that using drivers’ license data to automatically register voters raised worries about ID theft and undermined the privacy of Oregonians. House Bill 2177 passed both chambers without a single Republican vote. The only Democrat to vote no was Sen. Betsy Johnson of Scappoose, who had cast the deciding vote against a similar measure that died in the 2013 session.
Brown, who became governor last month, announced immediately after the vote that she looks forward to signing the bill when it reaches her desk. The secretary of state’s office said the system is unique nationally. Louisiana has a similar system for registering teens as they near voting age but nothing of this scope.
Under the measure, driver’s license data stretching back to 2013 will be used to begin registering Oregon citizens who aren’t already signed up to vote. Elections officials will send a postcard to the prospective new registrants giving them a chance to opt out.