Automatic voter registration has become a zeitgeisty election reform for Democrats, since Oregon Gov. Kate Brown (D) signed the state’s first-in-the-nation measure into law and Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton advocated for the method. Now, a voting rights group is making the proposal the centerpiece of its 2016 effort. The group, called iVote, will announce Monday that it will focus its efforts on creating campaigns to enact automatic voter registration laws in multiple states across the country, including swing states crucial to next year’s presidential election. The group plans to spend six to seven figures on the campaign. “We should be looking for ways to make it easier to vote and increase participation, not more burdensome to vote and suppress participation,” said Ellen Kurz, iVote’s founder and president. “Automatic voter registration will be a monumental step in guaranteeing more voters have their voices heard on Election Day.”
Hillary Clinton wants to make Oregon the model for her proposal to expand access to the ballot box. On March 16, Oregon became the first state in the nation to make voter registration automatic. The legislation, known as the “Motor Voter” law, will use information collected at the state Department of Motor Vehicles data to automatically register eligible voters. Speaking in Houston Thursday, Clinton cited Oregon’s example and said automatic registration should go national. Signing her state’s registration law, Oregon Governor Kate Brown, a Democrat, said, “I challenge every other state in this nation to examine their policies and find ways to ensure that there are as few barriers as possible in the way of a citizen’s right to vote.” Brown introduced in the bill January while Oregon secretary of state, and became Oregon governor the following month.
Earlier this month, Oregon became the first state in the nation to automatically register voters using data from the Department of Motor Vehicles, a move that stands in contrast to voting restrictions many states have enacted in recent years. “I challenge every other state in this nation to examine their policies and find ways to ensure that there are as few barriers as possible in the way of a citizen’s right to vote,” Oregon Gov. Kate Brown (D) said at the bill’s signing ceremony. Most Americans are in favor of enacting a similar proposal in their own state, a new survey finds. A 54 percent majority of Americans say they’d favor an automatic registration law in their state, a new HuffPost/YouGov poll finds, while 55 percent favor allowing eligible citizens to register on the day of an election.
Oregon made history recently when newly appointed Gov. Kate Brown signed legislation into law that makes voter registration automatic for Oregonians using driver’s license records. House Bill 2177 moved quickly through Oregon’s Democratically controlled Legislature — although similar legislation had failed in 2013. It was championed by then-Secretary of State Kate Brown as well as the Oregon Association of County Clerks (OACC). And on March 16, Brown got to sign her legislation into law. Now comes the hard part — implementing the new law.
California: Secretary of State Alex Padilla wants to adopt Oregon’s ‘motor voter’ law | Statesman Journal
Gov. Kate Brown’s “Motor Voter” law received significant national attention when it passed this month, and it has already found its first adopter in California, whose secretary of state said this week he plans to push for the same law. California Secretary of State Alex Padilla said he believes the law could register millions of people to vote in his state, where about 7 million eligible voters have not signed up. “While many states are making it more difficult for citizens to vote, our neighbor to the north offers a better path,” Padilla said in a Tuesday press release. “I believe the Oregon model makes sense for California,”
Editorials: Is Oregon’s Automatic Voter Registration Law A Step Toward Universal Voting? | Russell Berman/The Atlantic
“I forgot to register.” It’s one of the frequently cited reasons that people give every year for not voting in America, as well as a convenient excuse that the state of Oregon this week took it away from its citizens. Under a law signed Monday by new Governor Kate Brown, any eligible Oregonian with a driver’s license will be automatically registered to vote and will receive a ballot by mail weeks before Election Day. The measure is the first of its kind in the nation, and state officials project it will add 300,000 people to a voter roll that now numbers about 2.2 million. Oregon has long been an early adopter of new voting methods, having shifted to an entirely vote-by-mail system in 1998. Passage of the law, which was supported by Democrats, marks a rare recent win for proponents of expanded access to the ballot box at a time when states are moving toward more restrictive measures. The U.S. has an embarrassingly low rate of voter participation, setting it apart from other democracies in the developed world; just over one-third of eligible voters showed up in 2014, and even in the relatively high turnout election of 2008, the participation rate was only 64 percent. Yet the debate over the Oregon “motor voter” law was contentious, and it hinged on a key question: How far should the government go to encourage citizens to register and vote?
For more than a decade, voting rights advocates have been on the defensive. They’ve resisted one effort after another to restrict access to the polls, efforts that got new life following the Florida election fiasco of 2000, when a large black turnout almost (or maybe did) put Al Gore over the top in the Sunshine State, and that reached full force following Barack Obama’s election in 2008. Between the 2010 and 2012 elections alone, governors signed into law 23 bills that imposed constraints on voting, including requiring photo ID at the polls and curtailing same-day registration and early voting. While there have been defensive victories here and there, the resistance has been futile in many states and not helped by the Supreme Court, which in 2008 ruled in favor of voter ID laws and in 2013 gutted key elements of the Voting Rights Act. But now, at least in one state, the voting rights camp is on the offensive, and it’s hard to overstate what a pivotal turn that represents in the nation’s long-running voting wars. Oregon’s new governor, Kate Brown, the former secretary of state who took over following the resignation of her fellow Democrat John Kitzhaber, has made headlines for being the nation’s first openly bisexual governor, but the bill she signed Monday is far more significant.
The civil rights marchers who were attacked in Selma, Alabama, in 1965 were attempting to register to vote. The question that people should be asking all these years later is: Why should anyone have to register at all? On Monday, Oregon Governor Kate Brown signed a bill that eliminates the need for most citizens to submit registration forms in order to exercise their constitutional right to vote. That legislation, the first in the country, arises from a simple idea: Government should not force people to file more forms than necessary. (If you disagree, you may have a future career with the Internal Revenue Service.)
Call it “motor voter” on steroids. New legislation signed into law today in Oregon paves the way for the state to one day have close to 100% voter registration. The new law takes the federal “motor voter” law to new levels and registers a person to vote when they obtain or renew a state driver’s license or ID – and it’s partially retroactive. The law dictates that once residents interact with the state DMV – whether to get a license or ID for the first time, or renew an existing one – they’ll become registered to vote if they aren’t already. The registration will be provisional for 21 days, during which time applicants will be notified of their new status and be given a chance to become affiliated with a political party or to opt-out of the voting process altogether. In essence, Oregon will now be the first state to approach voting with an “opt-out” mindset, as opposed to “opt-in.”
Sweeping first-in-the nation legislation making voter registration automatic in Oregon was signed into law on Monday by Governor Kate Brown, potentially adding 300,000 new voters to state rolls. The so-called Motor Voter legislation will use state Department of Motor Vehicles data to automatically register eligible voters whose information is contained in the DMV system, with a 21-day opt-out period for those who wish to be taken off the registry. Supporters say the legislation’s goal is to keep young voters, students and working families who move often from losing their right to vote. Republican lawmakers, who unanimously voted against the bill, complain it puts Oregonians’ privacy at risk.
Last Thursday, House Bill 2177, the “New Motor Voter Bill,” passed the Oregon Senate following passage on Feb. 20 in the House. Gov. Kate Brown has said she’ll sign the legislation; it was a signature piece of legislation for her while secretary of state and was introduced at her request in each of the last…
Oregon: Kate Brown finds a caretaker by appointing Jeanne Atkins as Oregon secretary of state | The Oregonian
Jeanne Atkins, a veteran Democratic aide and women’s rights advocate appointed by Gov. Kate Brown to be Oregon’s new secretary of state, said Friday that she won’t run in 2016 for a full four-year term in the office. Instead, Atkins, 65, will serve in a caretaker role in the state’s second highest office, leaving what could be a long list of candidates to battle over the position in next year’s election. Brown announced Friday that she would appoint Atkins to fill the remaining 22 months of her term as secretary of state. Brown ascended to the governor’s office last month after John Kitzhaber resigned amid an influence-buying scandal.
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.
Automatic voter registration, linked with Oregon driver records, is headed to Gov. Kate Brown. The Senate passed the bill on a 17-13 vote Thursday. “I applaud the Senate for passing House Bill 2177, Oregon’s motor voter bill,” Brown said in a statement after the vote. “Our goal is to make it as easy as possible for eligible voters to participate in our elections. As secretary of state, the motor voter bill was my top priority, and I look forward to signing this bill into law.” As she did on a similar bill two years ago, Democratic Sen. Betsy Johnson of Scappoose joined 12 Republicans against HB 2177. All other Democrats voted for it. The 2013 bill died on a 15-15 vote; Republicans then had 14 members. The House passed it on Feb. 20, also along party lines.
The Oregon Legislature’s budget committee, on a party-line vote Friday with multiple political implications, cleared a bill providing for automatic voter registration upon obtaining or renewing a driver’s license. The bill is a top priority for Secretary of State Kate Brown, who is next in line of succession if Gov. John Kitzhaber resigns amid influence-peddling allegations against him and first lady Cylvia Hayes. A couple of hours after the committee vote, Kitzhaber announced his resignation, effective Feb. 18, when Brown will be sworn in as Oregon’s 38th governor. House Bill 2177 went to a vote of the full House with all committee Democrats for it and all Republicans against it. A similar bill failed on a tie vote in the Senate after the House passed it in 2013.
Kate Brown’s deputy, Robert Taylor, took over as Oregon’s acting secretary of state when Brown was sworn in as governor Wednesday. Taylor will manage the day-to-day responsibilities until the new governor chooses a more permanent successor, secretary of state spokesman Tony Green said. That will include planning and overseeing the elections, auditing public spending and serving as the state’s chief archivist. Robert TaylorRobert Taylor “The deputy secretary, in absence of the secretary, has all legal power of the secretary,” Green said. According to Green, Taylor spent most the day Wednesday preparing for the secretary of state’s annual budget presentation to the Legislature’s Joint Ways and Means Committee. Kristen Grainger, Brown’s new communications director, said she’s not sure when Brown plans to announce an appointment.
An automatic voter-registration proposal pending in the Oregon Legislature that would add roughly 300,000 voters to the rolls next year appears to be on the fast track to passage. Under the bill from Secretary of State (soon to be governor) Kate Brown, the state would collect data from Driver and Motor Vehicle Services and use that information to automatically register voters. Prospective voters would be given at least three weeks to decide whether they wanted to opt out of registering, or whether they wanted to register with any particular party. If they failed to register with a party, they would be added to the rolls as an unaffiliated voter.
Speculation is brewing over who will succeed Kate Brown as Oregon’s next secretary of state when she becomes governor next week, replacing John Kitzhaber. Under the state constitution, Brown has the power to appoint her successor. It’s unknown whom she’ll choose — Brown addressed the media for less than 30 seconds Friday afternoon — but privately, lawmakers are discussing whom they’d like to see fill the post. Three Democrats, like Brown, are considered to be the leading contenders at the Capitol: House Majority Leader Val Hoyle of Eugene, Senate Majority Leader Diane Rosenbaum of Portland, and House Speaker Tina Kotek of Portland.
It’s official: Oregon has become the only state in the country with three major political parties. Secretary of State Kate Brown announced Monday afternoon that the Independent Party of Oregon has enough members to be a major party, on par with the Republican and Democratic parties. As of Feb. 2, the party had 108,742 members, just three more than the threshold requires, which is more than 5 percent of the registered voters in the 2014 gubernatorial election. Brown noted in a statement that the party will be subject to re-verification on Aug. 17, which could potentially change the outcome if it were to lose four members.
Oregon: Secretary of state slow to recognize Independents; Independent Party could be first new major party in decades | Bend Bulletin
The Independent Party of Oregon last month received enough members to become the newest major party in the country, joining Oregon’s Republican and Democratic parties that receive state-funded primaries. It was a well-documented and long-expected achievement as voters left the two main parties to become either unaffiliated with any party or register with a minor group, and the Independent Party membership steadily grew. So party officials and a former secretary of state wonder why Secretary of State Kate Brown hasn’t certified the party as Oregon’s first new major political group in decades. The longer Brown waits to certify the party — she has until mid-August — the less time the party has to get ready for its first election comparable to the other major parties, so the party’s officials hope Brown moves quickly as they prepare for 2016. “What’s really driving the membership growth is that more than half the country doesn’t feel well-represented by either two of the major parties,” party secretary Sal Peralta said.
In the wake of big Republican victories in 2010, new conservative majorities in state legislatures across the country passed laws that rolled back a decade-long trend of expanding access to the ballot box. Democrats fought back, in the few states they still controlled, by expanding early voting, mail-in voting and new registration rules. Now, Oregon Democrats are trying something even more aggressive: A proposal likely to pass the legislature this year would further ease the hassle of voter registration by automatically adding eligible citizens to the voting rolls. Secretary of State Kate Brown (D) introduced the measure Monday in testimony before the state House Rules Committee in Salem. Brown said the bill would add an estimated 300,000 voters to the registration rolls by scraping data from the Department of Driver and Motor Vehicle Services. Brown said DMV data from as far back as 2013 would reveal hundreds of thousands of citizens eligible to cast a ballot. The measure introduced this year isn’t as aggressive as a version that passed the House but failed in the Senate by a single vote two years ago.
Oregon: Automatic voter registration bill clears first legislative hurdle on party-line vote | The Oregonian
A measure that would use driver license data to register hundreds of thousands of additional Oregonians to vote on Wednesday passed the House Rules Committee on a 5-4 party-line vote. The measure, sought by Secretary of State Kate Brown, was supported by the majority Democrats and opposed by the panel’s Republicans. It was one of the first bills to begin moving through the House in this session. The measure, House Bill 2177, now moves to the Joint Ways and Means Committee, which will examine the estimated $1.5 million cost of the measure to the state and to county election departments.
Oregon: Automatic voter registration bill sails through committee; Bill would add 300,000 voters to registry on day one | The Bulletin
The hallmark bill in Secretary of State Kate Brown’s legislative agenda that would automatically register eligible residents to vote is in the fast lane and appears headed quickly through the Legislature after passing out of committee Wednesday. Under Brown’s bill the state would proactively register eligible residents to vote, rather than require voters to register themselves. The move would add 300,000 voters to the state’s rolls on the first day it goes into effect and eventually register virtually every eligible voter. The proposal faced opposition from rural county clerks last session before it failed by a single vote in the Senate. The state’s clerks association is in favor of the proposal this time around, shoring up support outside most Republicans who tried and failed four times Wednesday to change or stop it.
Secretary of State Kate Brown hopes a more Democratic Legislature will improve the odds for her effort to automatically add licensed drivers to the voter rolls. Brown’s initiative is one of several stymied liberal priorities that are likely to find a friendlier reception in the new Legislature, which begins a five-month session Feb. 2. The bill passed the House in 2013 but fell one vote short in the Senate. Brown said she and her staff haven’t spoken with all the newly elected lawmakers yet, but she’s optimistic about her chances. Brown’s bill, HB 2177, would require the state to use driving records to identify people who are eligible to vote and automatically register them. They would receive a postcard allowing them to opt out or select a political party if they choose to do so. “We want to make participating in our democracy as simple and as easy as possible,” Brown said Thursday.
Oregon: Kate Brown will again push for universal voter registration; “New Motor Voter” would add 300,000 Oregon eligible voters on day one | The Bulletin
Topping a list of 13 bills that Oregon Secretary of State Kate Brown will push in 2015 is one that would add 300,000 voters to the state’s registry and eventually create one of the most complete voter rolls in the country. Oregon nearly created a law known as universal voter registration two years ago that would have added a half-million voters to its rolls. Under the law, eligible voters wouldn’t have to do anything to register to vote. The state would do it for them using records the Department of Motor Vehicles has on file. Brown is proposing the law again this year. Opponents are wary of costs and say voters should take initiative to register if they want to be involved in the voting process. Supporters say the process would continue a century-long progressive approach to elections in Oregon and create one of the most seamless processes for voting in the country. Brown says the onus should be on the state, not the voter, if Oregon wants to conduct open and accessible elections. The law would register residents as unaffiliated voters when records show they’re eligible. Those who don’t want to be registered could then opt out.
Statewide vote totals released Monday show an Oregon ballot measure that would require labeling of genetically modified foods was losing by a mere 809 votes and will go to an automatic recount. Results from all 36 counties three weeks after Election Day showed Measure 92 was defeated by a margin of only 0.06 percentage point, well under the 0.2 percent threshold for a recount. A hand tally of ballots is likely to begin the first week in December after Secretary of State Kate Brown certifies the election results, formally triggering the recount. Oregon is the fourth state in the West to reject a labeling requirement for genetically modified foods, but it was the closest tally yet. “Regardless of what the final outcome of this race is, this is a very encouraging sign for those of us who support labeling of genetically engineered foods,” said Sandeep Kaushik, a spokesman for the campaign promoting the measure. Machine counts are subject to a small margin of error, Kaushik said, and with such a razor-thin vote difference, “there is a plausible possibility that the outcome of this race will change.”
Secretary of State Kate Brown says Oregon isn’t quite ready for online voting. But it will be soon enough. She even has a year in mind. “I believe by 2020 there will be electronic voting,” Brown said Thursday at Riverwood Assisted Living Center in Tualatin, where she met with Washington County election workers to help elderly voters cast their ballots. Already there are signs that Oregon, the first state to embrace mail-only voting, is starting to move away from paper. The secretary of state’s office has been dipping its toes into Internet voting technology, although Brown acknowledges advances would be necessary — both in cyber security and voter confidence — for a fully-fledged electronic system to work. Brown acknowledged she has some security concerns about a completely computerized system, however. The paper trail left by mail-in ballots is more transparent and leaves an easy way for county clerks to conduct a recount if necessary, she said. Voters can even go see the ballots counted in person.
Signature problems were the top reason ballots in the state’s vote-by-mail system got tossed out in the 2010 mid-term election, according to data from Oregon Secretary of State Kate Brown’s office. County clerks in 30 Oregon counties — six didn’t report data — rejected nearly 5,000 ballots in that election because signatures on the envelopes did not match the signatures on file, and more than 3,200 ballots were discarded because they lacked any signature. Approximately 1,900 ballots arrived too late to be counted. The counties that did not report the numbers of ballots they rejected in the 2010 mid-term election were Curry, Grant, Lincoln, Malheur, Tillamook and Wheeler counties. The number of rejected ballots translates to a tiny fraction of the total ballots cast. Less than 1 percent of the 1.4 million ballots cast were rejected in the 2010 mid-term, and similar percentages in other recent elections. Nonetheless, a spokesman for the Secretary of State’s Office and an expert on early voting said there are ways that Oregon could improve.
A piece of third-party software that hadn’t been updated might have been the vulnerable point invaded by hackers of the Oregon secretary of state’s website, a state report found. The February breach took election and business records offline for nearly three weeks, delaying disclosure of campaign-finance information and forcing staff to handle many functions by hand. Citing security concerns, officials wouldn’t name the suspect software but described it as an application development tool commonly used by governments and private-sector organizations. They say the software has now been patched, and they’re working to have future security updates installed automatically.
The February breach of the Oregon Secretary of State’s website cost taxpayers about $176,662, including about $4,500 for meals and lodging to allow employees to work through a snowstorm. The breach was detected Feb. 4 and knocked the agency’s elections and business registry databases offline for nearly three weeks. The largest expense — about $72,450 — went to Virtual Security Research for “vulnerability testing,” according to cost figures obtained by The Oregonian through a public records request