Progressive election reforms move forward in Colorado and Oregon

Posted by AzBlueMeanie:

Oregon Secretary of State Kate Brown is probably the most forward-looking Secretary of State in America. She has been promoting the Brennan Center for Justice concept of "universal voter registration" (automatic registration).

Last Wednesday, Brown pitched legislators on a new version of her ambitious plan to automatically register hundreds of thousands of potential voters in the state. Oregon secretary of state tweaks universal registration bill in search of more support:

Brown said she has agreed to changes
to address privacy concerns, as well as worries from minor political
parties faced with rapidly increasing their numbers to keep their ballot
status.

Brown's changes, now embodied in House Bill 3521,
didn't satisfy Republicans, several of whom showed up to testify
against the measure.  However, the Democratic secretary of state did get
backing from several groups that seek to increase voter registration,
such as the Oregon League of Women Voters and Common Cause Oregon.

Brown has proposed to use Oregon DMV data to automatically register
citizens to vote if they are not already registered
.  Her office has
estimated that could increase the state's voter rolls by more than
500,000 over the current total of about 2.2 million.

Critics had earlier said that many people did not want to be
registered because they did not want to be listed on the state's public
record of voters. Under Brown's new proposal, new registrants would
receive a notice giving them 14 days to opt out of being registered
.

In addition, only those who have turned 18 by the next election would
be automatically registered.  Oregon law allows people to register when
they are 17 and a separate bill passed by the House proposes reducing that age to 16.

Brown also noted that elections officials would not receive drivers
license data that the DMV is holding confidential for a variety of
reasons, such as involving a victim of domestic abuse.

Under the new bill, minor parties would also not have to immediately
worry about higher voter registration thresholds for maintaining their
ballot status.

Despite the changes, several Republican activists told the House
Rules Committee that they continued to have problems with the bill.

Greg Leo, the chief of staff of the Oregon Republican Party, said a
bipartisan group should be assembled to advise legislators on how to
increase voter registration.   Among  other things, he noted concerns
from some county clerks that processing thousands of new voter
registrations would increase their costs
.

* * *

Supporters testified that Oregon should take advantage of new
technology to help remove the barriers to voting
.  "This bill is not
about forcing people to vote," said Barbara Dudley of the Working
Families Party.  "It is about allowing them to vote."

House Rules Chairman Chris Garrett, D-Lake Oswego, said he expected the committee to take action on the bill at a later meeting.

In the state of Colorado, Governor John Hickenlooper signed into law sweeping election reforms designed to increase voter participation and to make voting easier. Hickenlooper Signs Elections Overhaul Bill Into Law – Huffington Post:

A sweeping overhaul of Colorado elections was signed into law by Gov. John Hickenlooper Friday.

The Colorado Voter Access & Modernized Elections Act will allow same-day voter registration, and every registered voter to receive a mail-in ballot though they can still vote in person.

“This is a new system designed around Colorado voters. Every
registered voter is treated equally statewide and will receive a ballot –
no more confusing inactive status if you don’t vote in one election.
It’s much simpler from the voters’ perspective,” Donetta Davidson,
executive director of the Colorado County Clerks Association said in a
statement.

* * *

The bill also expands voter access so that voters do not have to go to a
designated precinct polling place but may vote in person at any of the
voting centers established by the bill.

“Anytime you expand access and services, it is good for democracy. Same
day registration has demonstrated in nine other states and the District
of Columbia to increase participation in elections without compromising
security,” said Elena Nunez, executive director of Colorado Common
Cause.

Of course, Tea-Publicans oppose these measures. As always, they want to restrict voting to as few people as possible (the "right kind" of voters), and to make voting as difficult and as much of a burden as possible.

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