In March 2015, Oregon achieved a landmark accomplishment, becoming the first state in the country to adopt automatic voter registration when Governor Kate Brown signed the “New Motor Voter” bill (H.B. 2177).
The new law, which provides for a system of automatic voter registration at Oregon’s DMV, has the potential to transform the voter registration process across the country and has already spurred efforts in California and New Jersey, among others. Automatic registration makes two transformative changes to voter registration. Eligible citizens who interact with government agencies are registered to vote unless they decline, and agencies transfer voter-registration information electronically to election officials.
Oregon will dramatically modernize voter registration by replacing a paper-based system with a new process in which the state identifies and adds eligible Oregonians to the rolls electronically, without the need for additional action by the voter. Using information the DMV already has on file — including age, residential information, and citizenship status —eligible Oregonians will be added to the rolls without having to fill out additional paperwork. Many other states electronically transfer voter registration information from DMV offices to election officials, but Oregon will be the first to put the burden on the government — not the individual — to ensure voters are registered.
Oregon is in the process of designing and testing its automatic voter registration system, and it is expected to launch early next year. The Brennan Center and others hailed the passage of the law, which received widespread national attention.
- Washington Post Editorial: Hassle-Free Voting Registration in Oregon
- Boston Globe Editorial: Making Voting Rights Automatic
- Brennan Center: How Oregon’s New Law Can Change Voter Registration
- Los Angeles Times: Under New Oregon Law, All Eligible Voters Are Registered Unless they Opt Out
- Politico: Oregon Pioneers Automatic Voter Registration
- The Oregonian: Kate Brown Gets to Sign Her Own Bill, for Automatic Voter Registration in Oregon
- Brennan Center Testimony: Streamlining Voter Registration