Oregon Is Blazing A Trail Toward a Strong Democracy

Hundreds of thousands of Oregonians who’ve been left off the state’s voter rolls will be welcomed into the electorate thanks to precedent-setting legislation that received final approval today in the state legislature.

“Oregon is blazing a trail today toward a stronger democracy for its citizens and the rest of the country,” said Common Cause President Miles Rapoport.

The “new motor voter” legislation, first of its kind in the country, will add to the state’s voter rolls automatically any eligible citizen 18 years old or older who obtains or renews a driver’s license or ID. Drivers across the country already can register at motor vehicle and social service offices but doing so can require them to complete a separate application form – using an outdated paper-based system.

“This is an auspicious start for Gov. Kate Brown,” said Kate Titus, executive director of Common Cause Oregon. “As secretary of state, she was a champion for voting rights and campaign finance reform. We anticipate she’ll continue this leadership as governor.

“It’s a fitting tribute – on the 50th anniversary of the Selma Voting Rights March – to all those who came before us in the long and ongoing struggle for voting rights,” Titus added.

Voting reform advocates say millions of additional voters could be added nationwide if states did a better job of integrating voter registration applications into the process of applying for or renewing a driver’s license.

In one state, California, a coalition of reform groups including Common Cause have threatened to file suit to force motor vehicle offices to properly transmit registration applications to elections officials.  With the state taking on an automatic forwarding process, these problems can be avoided.

“By adding newly licensed drivers and those renewing their licenses to the voter rolls, the state is making it simpler and easier for Oregonians to vote,” Rapoport said. “It’s estimated that this reform could add 300,000 people to the electorate in Oregon alone, cutting in half the number of people there who are eligible to register but haven’t done so. This is a step every state should take, and the sooner the better.”

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