Oregon introduces automatic voter registration


A lot of Republicans are having hissy fits, but to me this seems like a great idea. Not because I care about convenience. I’ve argued before that voting should involve a small amount of inconvenience. Voting is a civic duty, like jury duty, and the state is not obligated to make it easier than buying a lottery ticket. But there’s a much better reason to support what Oregon is doing and encourage more states to do it.

Automatic registration works by the state using DMV records to automatically register voters at their current address. That’s much better than the system that we have, where voters fill out a form and continue to be registered at that address pretty much forever unless they fill out a new one. You also have to present your birth certificate at the DMV, so all of these automatically registered voters are pre-screened, reliably, as citizens and residents of the state. The DMV will also be sending updated records to the Secretary of State, so voters’ old addresses will be purged. Manual registration will still be an option, but since they’ll receive relatively few such applications, they can be carefully screened.

Of course, Oregon was never really known for corruption anyway, but this could be a model for places like Illinois and California.

I think voting should be as easy as possible (like jury duty should be :)), but is this really a huge change? It sounds like it’s just automatic motor voter. States are already required to ask voters if they want to change their registration when they update the address on their license, AFAIK. Oregon just isn’t going to ask any more.

Also, are DMV records actually more accurate? I know in Ohio, courts can use either voter registrations or drivers licenses to select juries, but almost all use only voter registrations as they’ve found that the voter information is more likely to have an up-to-date address.

I think it’s great for it to be easy as long as we don’t make it easy at the cost of making it easier to cast illegal votes, whether intentionally or unintentionally. It seems to me that automatic registration is better, because it goes off government records rather than people’s say-so.

As for the accuracy of said government records, I’m not sure. THey seem to have enough confidence in it.

I see a great potential for confusion. What happens to those already registered? I doubt if the state’s computers will have the sophistication of a Google search, and the software will not equate Richard L. Lewis with Richard Lewis, who might or might not be the same person. Will someone be blocked from voting if the names don’t match perfectly, or conversely, will one person show up twice in voter lists?

I’m sure it will happen, but since I see no concern from voting rights organizations I imagine it’s just not that important. More people will be voting overall, so if a few individuals are disenfranchised, so be it.

That’s why social security numbers are used as a cross-reference at the DMV. I don’t see a “great potential for confusion” or even a minor one, other than that we cook up in our brains.

Of course they are. Low voter turn-out favors Republicans; no secret there.

I agree.

I disagree. Regardless of civic duty, there is no reason voting should not be convenient. Why should someone have to jump through even one hoop in order to vote? Why is this, in the minds of many Republicans, some sort of unwritten requisite, other than to suppress the vote of the undesired?

The only question I have is, there’s still a process for actively registering, right? Not every eligible voter drives, after all.

People also get non-DL IDs at the DMV, but yeah, manual registration would have to still exist because some people don’t have that either. But it’ll probably be a very small number and I’d imagine the SecState would look those applications over very carefully.

Is there really anything to debate here? Voter turnouts are low because most people can’t be bothered to show up, not because there’s some shadowy supervillain disenfranchising people. I think the only real effect will be to cause massive disappointment among Democrats, when it turns out that this makes almost no difference.

More likely, it’ll have only a small effect because Oregon already has high voter turnout, due to other efforts they’ve made in that direction. The lesson to be learned from which is that such measures really do work.

Convenience of voting isn’t much of an issue. A level of convenience that favors the comfortable and affluent does. If you are reading an article about people standing on line for five or six hours to vote, and there is an accompanying photo, you are very likely looking at probable Dem voters.

Once again, a game of Republican Poker: they get seven cards, you get five, all of yours are face-up and they get to draw twice.

Sometimes. Sure didn’t work in Colorado. Oregon is kind of a nice, affluent, liberal bastion without the kinds of social and economic problems big states face. Most decent ideas are more likely to work in such a place then in a more complicated place.

Just to play devil’s advocate here, what’s the big benefit from making voter registration so easy and making address updates so easy?

The franchise is guaranteed, but we don’t have to present it to everyone on a silver platter either. Some nominal barrier to entry like filling out a form when renewing your drivers, or mailing a change-of-address form is hardly onerous, and if they can’t be bothered to follow through on that, then they’re effectively proving that they don’t value voting, and IMO, I’d rather they not vote, because it’s unlikely that their choices of who or what to vote for show any more effort, foresight or interest.

At worst, we’re talking about a 49 cent stamp and an envelope, if the state doesn’t have a postage-paid postcard for doing this, so there’s literally NO financial impact to someone who can afford to have a car.

Of course, this is only about convenience of registering.

Higher voter turnout, which in civic-democratic terms has a value independent of the election results.

I’d flip that: what’s the big benefit in making it even the slightest bit difficult to vote? The only drawback I can see is that the particularly lazy might vote “wrong”- but “wrong”, in voting, really means “for someone or something I don’t like.”

Why stop there, though? If you’re going to make it just a little bit difficult to vote, what’s to stop you from making it *really *difficult to vote? If putting in a small barrier slightly improves the electoral process, presumably making it very difficult would result in *fantastic *voters.

In Oregon, you don’t even need a stamp. The state *wants *you to vote, and unsurprisingly, they tend to get more voters- which means a more politically-involved citizenry. I think it can be argued that increasing voter turnout increases voter issue education.

I don’t think Oregon is immune from social and economic problems. Portland isn’t Chicago, but it isn’t Beverly Hills either.

Registration is but one piece of the puzzle. It is great that Oregon is trying to make it easier and other states can and should follow suit. But there is also the matter of voter ID, voting hours, and voting machine distribution. Next election day, you’re going to see footage of voters standing in line for hours- these will not be middle class whites. There will be registration forms tossed for being on the wrong weight of paper- these will not be middle class whites. There will be people who lack the ability to take a day off work or get transportation to procure a voter ID. Again, guess who this will not be?

And this is actually a problem when it comes to getting people registered to vote. If they are only marginally likely to vote if registered, and the jury pool is selected from registered voters rather than registered drivers, they’ll avoid registering to vote in order to keep from having to serve on a jury.

Whatever else is true about ease or difficulty of voting, there shouldn’t be actual incentives to avoid the whole process built into the system.

I can’t recall giving a SSN when I first registered to vote. If that’s true, the voter records have nothing to compare.

My state’s DMV once, in the spirit of “National Security,” spotted a one-letter difference between Social Security records and the driver’s license I had held for 40 years, across 3 states. Suddenly, I became a terrorist, I couldn’t renew my license, and presumably wouldn’t have been able to vote under this new plan. You think that can’t happen, eh?

And do you think that an SSN is always entered without error? I noticed a 2-digit number transposition on my credit report recently (flagged as an “alternate” number) and have no idea where it came from, but obviously someone entered it wrong once. Was this all in my brain?