Go to renew your driver’s license in Oregon, and you will now be signed up to vote automatically. It’s the first state in the country with that sort of law, which is designed to make voting easier, and stands in contrast to the trend seen in the past several years in more conservative states. “It’s really interesting — when we’ve seen restrictions emerging in Republican-leaning states,” said Michael McDonald, a University of Florida associate who tracks turnout as head of the U.S. Elections Project. “In Democratic-controlled states, we’re seeing laws intended to expand the electorate.” Colorado, for example, like Oregon is all vote-by-mail; Vermont is considering automatic registration, McDonald said, and a Philadelphia politician on Tuesday proposed the same for Pennsylvania. New York and Maryland, meanwhile, have expanded early voting.
In Oregon, the law could swell voter rolls by hundreds of thousands. If other states follow suit, it could have a dramatic effect on the U.S. voting process.
“During the testimony on the bill, a legislator said to me, ‘It’s already so easy to register — why would we make it easier?'” Oregon Gov. Kate Brown said during the bill signing Monday. “My answer is that we have the tools to make voter registration more cost-effective, more secure and more convenient for Oregonians, so why wouldn’t we?”