Oregon Will Automatically Register Voters & Hopefully The First State To Do So Will See An Increased Turnout

PASADENA, CA - MAY 19: A sheet of voter stickers is seen inside Fire Station 38, as people go to the polls for a special election called by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and lawmakers to decide on statewide budget-balancing ballot propositions on May 19, 2009 in Pasadena, California. The governor says that a passage of the suite of measures is crucial to repairing the state budget crisis. The initiatives were put forth to voters after a drawn-out battle between politicians to solve the deficit which has resulted in painful cuts to education and services and the loss of thousands of jobs. The deficit is projected to hit $15.4 billion in the fiscal year that begins in July if voters pass the ballot measures. If not, the deficit will balloon to $21.3 billion, according to the governor�s office. Polls though indicate that Proposition 1F, which prohibits the governor, lawmakers and other state officials from getting pay raises any time the state has a budget deficit, is the only one of the six measures that appears to have enough support to pass. It is the 12th times in seven years that Californians have been faced with complex budget measures. Voter turnout is expected to be low. (Photo by David McNew/Getty Images)
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In a move that has raised some eyebrows, on Monday Oregon became the first state to automatically register voters via its department of motor vehicles, The Washington Post reported. Whenever an Oregonian gets or renews their driver's license, they'll become registered voters, unless they opt out. According to Gov. Kate Brown, who pushed for the bill when she was still Oregon's secretary of state, the new law will increase the state's registered voters from 2.2. million to 2.5 million, the Post reported. 

This concept of connecting to potential voters through the DMV isn't a brand new one; there's already a federal law that lets people register to vote while getting their license, the Post article notes, Oregon's new "Motor Voter" law, as it's known, just takes the process a step further. Brown said during the law's signing ceremony that other states should follow Oregon's example: 

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.

Not everyone likes the new law, however, including Oregon Republicans. No Republican in either chamber of Oregon's legislature voted for the law, which suggests they think it will benefit Democrats. Political analysts told The Oregonian that, in fact, when voter turnout is high, especially in presidential elections, that does tend to favor Democrats.

[Twitter Embed: https://twitter.com/Oregonian/statuses/577595302485614592]

In addition, GOP lawmakers raised potential privacy concernsThe Oregonian reported. That's because while DMV data is private and protected, voter registration information is required by law to be open. Whether that will lead to sensitive information being made public remains to be seen, but supporters of the law say there are protections in place. 

Here's how the law will work, according to The Oregonian: The secretary of state's office will provisionally register voters as non-affiliated, or independent (meaning not as a Democrat or a Republican) based on drivers' license information from the DMV, and will notify them they have 21 days to opt out.  

With voter turnout in the U.S. embarrassingly low, anything that makes it easier to get people on the voting rolls has to be a good thing. And even if the trends suggest that high voter turnout tends to benefit Democrats, isn't it in all political parties' interests to have as many voters available as possible? Registering to vote and actually going to vote are still separate things. It's up to the political parties to mobilize would-be voters to take that next step, by presenting viable candidates and compelling ideas that connect with voters. That's the hard part. 

Image: Getty Images (1)


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