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Automatic Voter Registration
The Playbook, outlined by the State of Oregon
As of 2022, around 62-66% of the population is registered to vote. Around 47% of people then turnout to vote in races.
This is abysmal. Our country was founded on the principal that all of us select who we want to lead, instead of leaving power in the hands of a few. It may feel like we don’t have a choice today, but we do. We just have to work harder to use our voice than in the past. Our leaders can, however, make it easier for voters to make their vote count.
That is what Oregon has done.
In 2015, the state passed automatic voter registration that went into effect in 2016. This automatically registered eligible citizens to vote and updated their registration addresses via DMV records. The DMV worked with the Elections Division of the Secretary of State office to send only people who had the proper documentation to vote from the DMV to the Secretary of State’s office. Applicants who provided other proofs of residence or those with protected records for safety risks (i.e. victims of domestic violence) were not sent to become automatically registered. Whenever the DMV received an address update, they sent it to the Secretary of State, who verified the voter information and then automatically updated the voter’s new address in the registration system.
Newly registered and updated voters get a postcard saying:
1) they have been registered to vote through automatic voter registration,
2) they can opt-out by signing and mailing back the postcard, and
3) to vote in the state’s closed partisan primary, they need to register with a political party by returning the postcard.
New automatic registrants are allowed 21 days to return the postcard. Voters who do not return the card are added to the voter registration list as nonaffiliated voters.
This initiative increased voter registration the next year by 7%, an uncharacteristically effective increase, and resulted in Oregon becoming the second highest registered state in the country at 79% of eligible voters by 2017.
We can and should implement this process nationwide if our leaders truly care about allowing Americans to engage in the democratic process. Our government’s job is to make life easier, and this is a proven efficient and effective way to strengthen American’s access to freedom.