‘Why Make People Register to Vote At All?’ Asks Oregon

If voting is supposed to be a right afforded to all citizens, why do so many states set up hurdles in the form of voter registration? Oregon has hatched a new plan that might ultimately all but eliminate the registration process altogether after state lawmakers†recently approved legislation allowing all citizens who fill out forms for a license or ID at the DMV to automatically become registered voters.

Think about it: most adults wind up going to the DMV every couple of years. Plus, the forms people fill out for a driverís license include basically the same information as voter registration forms. By streamlining it into a single step, it becomes a convenient way to ensure everyone can vote.

From here forward, anyone who gets or renews a license at a DMV in Oregon is simultaneously registered to vote if they are not already. They will then receive a letter in the mail informing them that they are registered to vote and giving them the chance to affiliate with a political party. If, for whatever reason, a person does not want to be registered to vote, they simply mail back a form to become un-registered.

This idea to make people ďopt outĒ of being a registered voter rather than having to perform the extra step to secure their right shouldnít be a radical one, but–given the lack of precedent–appears to be one.

This change in procedure is a quick and major victory for the stateís new governor, Kate Brown. She prepared the legislation while serving as secretary of state, before unexpectedly getting a promotion to Oregonís top office after (then) Governor John Kitzhaber resigned because of an investigation into potential ethics violations.

While the old way of registering to vote isnít necessarily difficult, many citizens are unaware of Oregonís requirement that a voter needs to register three full weeks before an election in order to participate. For example, in 2012, 29,000 Oregon citizens attempted to register to vote shortly before the election and were turned away for being too late. Thatís a whole lot of would-be voters who were disenfranchised because of an arbitrary deadline–some states have same-day registration.

To its credit, Oregon is already one of the countryís leaders in voting. Over half of registered voters showed up for the 2014 midterm elections, placing it fifth in the nation. At the present time, 2.2 million people are registered to vote in Oregon, although the state has 3 million adults of voting age. State officials anticipate that the DMVís efforts could add another 300,000 eligible voters by the next election.

Critics of the legislation have expressed concern that the new process will allow undocumented immigrants an easier opportunity to illegally register to vote, but that doesnít appear to be the case. Previously, Oregon residents registering to vote merely had to check a box as ďproofĒ of citizenship. To obtain a driverís license, however, the DMV requires actual proof of citizenship.

Others have criticized the law as a partisan attempt to register more Democrats and give liberals an advantage in future elections. As Governor Brown points out, however, the system will indiscriminately register everyone with no consideration to demographics or party affiliation. If it turns out that getting more people to vote ultimately gives Democrats an edge, it sounds to me like the Republican Party needs to adjust its platform rather than gripe that having a more representative voting populace is somehow unfair.

One thing thatís too soon to project, though, is how many auto-enrolled voters will actually wind up exercising this right at the polls. Still, itís always better to ensure that people have the ability to vote should they choose to participate; other states would be wise to consider similar programs that eliminate the pesky registration process.

Image Source: ThinkStock

109 comments

Siyus Copetallus
Siyus Copetallus3 years ago

Thank you for sharing.

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Sarah Hill
Sarah Hill4 years ago

If voting is supposed to be a right afforded to all citizens...the key word is "citizens". We have to make sure that ONLY citizens vote!

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Mary B.
Mary B4 years ago

If some people are too ignorant or contrary to want to vote, leave them alone. They will help with nothing except making the lines longer and if the machines are rigged, they'll just be used to make the lie bigger. Trying to force people is always, ultimately counter productive. Sort of like insisting people work when they're sick. Not only will the rest of the workers suffer so will the quality of the goods or service and customer satisfaction will be destroyed. All it takes is one bad experience by someone who thinks they have the whole trueth.

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Jennifer H.
Jennifer H4 years ago

There needs to be some way to get the apathetic off their butts and voting and actually caring about what happens to this country.

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Tammy D.
Tammy D4 years ago

see? that's what happens when you put a woman in charge.... she actually tries to fix things! Good on you, Gov.

The fact that people aren't automatically registered to vote is a bit silly. All 'men' at 18 need to register for service, correct? that is mandatory, yet somehow voter registration is not? It shouldn't be a choice. Who one votes for should be the only choice. Make voting compulsory.The apathetic, 'i have a right to not vote' people can still not vote. Difference is they have to check off their apathy on the ballot. Only way America is every going to change.

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Nikki Davey
Nikki Davey4 years ago

Ty

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Lynne Willey
Lynne Willey4 years ago

voting is one of our problems, we have so many. Today I read a story on Mother Jones called, Walmart, Lowes, Safeway, and Nordstroms Are Bankrolling a Nationwide Campaign to Gut Workman's Comp.

I am so distressed about the article and the efforts to take even more away from the American worker. I wrote a letter to Lowes complaining about their efforts to hurt the American worker even more and instead of feeling helpless, I went and started my own petition. I called it "Demand that corporations end their efforts to water down workman's compensation".

I sure could use the support of the CARE2 family in getting the signatures. Many of us have family members who might need that someday. And if anybody has had a successful petition, I would really like to hear any suggestions on how to get more signatures

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Bill Eagle
Bill Eagle4 years ago

While the right wingers are working hard, throughout the nation, to suppress the vote; Oregon is trying to make voting easier.
We were the first state to institute mail in ballots and now we now have registration through the DMV. I hope that this will be as successful as our ballots through the mail.

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Lynne Willey
Lynne Willey4 years ago

I believe in voter registration as a way of making sure that citizens vote and vote only once in an election. I remember hearing that one city had a motto.....vote early and often.....but I would like to see that the process to vote be easier. To have it linked to a driver's license renewal might be one way.......maybe when filing state taxes there could be a form. We have los of possibilities.

One thing I am worried about is the electronic voting. It is so easy to rig the program so it prints out a receipt saying someone voted one way, but tallies up a different vote....maybe if the machines printed out the paper ballot too and they got counted to confirm the machine results.

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BMutiny TCorporationsEvil

Kudos to Governor Kate Brown!
Let's hope other States follow soon...
Bet in Oregon, Rethuglicans run into problems getting elected, if they can't "fix" the Ballot Box, which they will try no doubt...

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