Oregon Secretary of State to propose automatic universal voter registration

Posted by AzBlueMeanie:

If Arizona had a serious Secretary of State instead of Ken "Birther" Bennett, maybe we could have nice things.

Oregon Secretary of State State Kate Brown will present Oregon legislators with an ambitious plan that would ensure that almost all eligible Oregonians are
automatically registered to vote. Oregon secretary of state wants to use driver licenses to automatically register voters:

Brown plans to unveil legislation that would use driver-license data
and — eventually — data from other government agencies to register
citizens.

"I do not think that voter registration should be a barrier to
participation in voting," Brown said in an interview Tuesday, "and our
goal is to get ballots in the hands of every eligible Oregonian."

Brown's proposal could give Oregon the broadest pool of registered
voters in the country – with the exception of North Dakota, which does
not require voters to be registered
. [You don't hear anyone screaming "voter fraud" about North Dakota!]

Oregon's turnout rate last year of just under 83 percent of
registered voters was one of the highest in the country, thanks in part
to the state's pioneering system of vote-by-mail
. But Brown said that
Oregon is "what I'd call mediocre" in registering voters.

Unlike states that allow voters to register as late as Election Day,
Oregon cuts off registration 20 days in advance of an election. All
told, about 25 percent of Oregonians who are otherwise eligible to vote were not registered for the 2012 election.

Brian Shipley, the deputy secretary of state, said the state could
get about 93 percent of eligible voters registered through the use of
Oregon DMV data
. The secretary of state is also working with the
Department of Human Services, the Oregon Health Authority and other
agencies to obtain data that could be used for registration.

* * *

Since 2008, Oregon applicants must provide evidence that they are
legally in the country to get a driver's license. DMV spokesman David
House said the agency also has data on whether new applicants are
citizens, which is a requirement to vote.

Under Brown's proposal, which will be introduced as an amendment to House Bill 2198,
eligible Oregonians would learn they had been registered using DMV data
when they received a letter from the secretary of state.

The letter would explain how they could opt out of being registered
to vote and how they could register under one of the political parties.
Under the bill, they would be automatically registered as non-affiliated
voters.

Michael McDonald, a political scientist at George Mason University in
Virginia, said Canada created a similar system in the 1990s that
produced near-universal registration
. Still, actual voter turnout in
that country continued to slide, he said, demonstrating that higher
registration didn't counter a trend toward lower turnout.

[Note: Registering every eligible citizen to vote will result in a lower voter turnout percentage because all of those people who previously never bothered to register to vote are still likely to not vote and exercise their franchise. A bigger pool of voters will drive down the voter turnout percentage. It's math.]

However, McDonald, who has studied voter registration and turnout
extensively, said it's possible that Brown's proposal could increase
turnout. Unlike most states, Oregon mails a ballot to every registered
voter, which makes voting easier. And the 20-day registration cutoff
prevents some people from voting who only get interested in the last
days of an election campaign.

If the bill passes, "it will be an interesting experiment in Oregon,"
said McDonald. "In some ways, we're in unique territory here."

Wait for it . . . "We need to take a hard look at it," said Greg Leo, executive director
of the Oregon Republican Party, "but having more voters registered isn't
necessarily a bad thing." Well, at least he did not reject it out of hand.

I have advocated for automatic universal voter registration and vote-by-mail balloting using the Oregon model here in Arizona, but Secretary of State Ken "Birther" Bennett will not even consider it. We need a new Secretary of State.

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