Oregon Secretary of State Kate Brown is supporting a House Bill that would automatically register all Oregonians to vote when they apply for or renew their drivers license.
Automatically adding voters to the rolls, in a state that requires 20 day advance registration because of the vote-by-mail system, is smart policy.
But dont expect much of an increase in voters, nor a drastic change in election outcomes.
Brown said that about 500,000 Oregonians not currently registered would be put on the rolls Jan. 1, 2014 if the bill passes. We presume some of them would request to be unregistered.?If they do so, Brown said they are taken completely out of the system and will not receive a ballot. Yet we presume many more will do nothing, both before and after receiving a ballot.
If people dont have the desire to take the minute required to register, online or in person, we dont think that voting is important to them. And thats fine. Many people arent politically inclined, and they have every right to refrain from the task of checking boxes. (Just dont think that not being registered to vote keeps you from our civic chore?of jury duty: that info comes straight from the Department of Motor Vehicles.)?
Yet, we know there are busy people out there. And some of us dont get around to filling out paperwork until its too late the election is tomorrow, for instance. Brown told the East Oregonian editorial board Monday that about 30,000 Oregonians tried to register after the 20-day cutoff last election and were unable to vote.
Still, it is a stretch to call the current system inconvenient. A?new resident, or a person renewing?their license, is asked Would you like to register to vote? while at the DMV. A simple yes is all it takes to put you on the rolls and register as a member of a specific party, or be unaffiliated.
Under Browns system, that question wouldnt be asked. At the same time your license is received or renewed, provided you are 18 years of age and have U.S. citizenship, youd become an active Oregon voter.
In the case of 16-year-olds getting their first license, their names and addresses would be kept on file until they turn 18, when they are automatically added to the rolls.
Because both political parties always say that voter turnout is important to them in an election, you would think that both would support the bill. However, while the Democrats are in favor, Oregon Republicans have come out against it.
Greg Leo, Oregon GOPs chief of staff, said registration should be the choice of the citizen, not the mandate of the state. He also worried that the bill would lead to an uninformed electorate.
That is not Kate Browns problem. As Secretary of State, her job is to run elections fairly and equitably. If this bill gets more ballots in front of more legal voters, then she has done her job.
The onus is now on us, the voters, to inform ourselves and, if so inclined, inform our neighbors. That onus also stretches to both parties, as well as advocates for and against specific issues, to educate voters instead of just registering them.
Brown said that would bring a paradigm shift to pre-election political organization and advocation. We welcome that change.
Dont expect automatic registration to change much, but it costs little and the state already has this information in their system. Might as well use it to get a few more ballots into the hands of potential voters.