Oregon Approves Breakthrough Voter Registration Law

March 5, 2015

Seamless, Electronic Registration Process at DMVs Will Add At Least 300,000 to the Rolls Initially

Salem, Ore. – Oregon today created a bold new 21st century standard for voter registration. The state legislature approved a bill to streamline registration at the DMV by replacing a paper-based system with a new process in which voters are added to the rolls electronically.

The Brennan Center for Justice applauds the legislature, Gov. Kate Brown, and civic groups for their efforts to make voting more accessible by passing this groundbreaking reform, which builds on our signature Voter Registration Modernization proposal.

“This legislation is an important paradigm shift on voter registration,” said Wendy Weiser, director of the Democracy Program at the Brennan Center. “Where the government has the tools to ensure that eligible voters are accurately registered, it should do so. Oregon’s new law harnesses modern technology and reliable information to make the voting process more convenient and accessible. It will add hundreds of thousands of eligible voters to the rolls in its first year, cutting the rate of unregistered citizens in half. This is a bold new standard that other states should work toward as a model for reform.”

“At a time when increasing partisanship often gets in the way of common-sense improvements, modernizing voter registration is a win-win for both voters and election administrators,” said Jonathan Brater, counsel in the Democracy Program. “More states should follow Oregon’s lead in creating a seamless process that benefits voters, saves taxpayer dollars, and makes participating in our great democracy more accessible for eligible voters.”

The bill, H.B. 2177, will:

  • Use information that the DMV already has on file, including age, residential information, signature, and citizenship status.
  • Automatically update registration information when Oregonians update their address or name information at the DMV.
  • Only allow registration when voters affirmatively confirm their citizenship or when records reliably indicate citizenship.
  • Allow those who wish to remain unregistered to stay off the voter rolls.

Electronic registration will combine with Oregon’s existing use of online registration to give the state one of the most modernized systems in the country. This change is expected to initially add between 300,000 and 400,000 eligible voters to the registration rolls by 2016, and even more in subsequent election cycles.

Oregon’s move comes at a time of growing national consensus around bringing voter registration into the 21st century. At least 29 states have or soon will have modernized the “motor voter” process at their DMV by implementing electronic transfer of voter registration information in place of ink-and-paper forms.

Now, Oregon will take modernization one step further by enabling registration for those with DMV records with no additional steps necessary. This builds on the Brennan Center’s voter registration modernization policy proposal by reducing the burden on the voter like never before. After previous efforts to pass similar legislation stalled, the Brennan Center is proud to have partnered with Gov. Brown’s office and civic groups, including the Bus Project, Oregon Voice, and Common Cause Oregon in making this groundbreaking new model a reality.

For more information or to schedule an interview, contact Erik Opsal at 646-292-8356 or erik.opsal@nyu.edu.