Tuesday marked the sixth anniversary of a first-in-the-nation law that automatically registers voters based on drivers’ license data — popularly known as “motor voter” legislation.
The law helped spawn similar efforts across the country, and Democratic state officials say it has bolstered Oregon’s reputation as a leader in election accessibility and security.
To date, 20 other states and the District of Columbia have implemented some form of automatic voter registration.
Governor Kate Brown signed the bill on March 16, 2015, with a little extra dose of enthusiasm — given she had developed and championed the program while serving in her previous role as secretary of state.
This week, Oregon’s new secretary of state, Shemia Fagan, marked the anniversary with near-equal enthusiasm.
“At a perilous time for voting rights across our nation, I am so proud to live in a state where Oregonians from across the political spectrum work together for fair, secure and reliable access to the ballot box,” said Fagan.
“Oregonians from all walks of life can be proud of the fact that our state is a national model for how elections should be run.”
Fagan, too, had supported the legislation back in 2015, when she was a member of the Oregon House of Representatives.
In a Feb. 20, 2015, speech on the House floor, she had argued passionately in favor of the bill by pointing out the absurdity of having to “register” to exercise other constitutional rights, like being protected from unwarranted searches and seizures, owning firearms or worshiping freely.
“[What if] an officer sees your hunting rifles on the wall, takes them and just makes off with them?” Fagan asked rhetorically. “If you haven’t registered for your Second Amendment rights, you’re out of luck. And if you haven’t updated your registration since you moved, you’re out of luck. …
“I could go on, colleagues, but I think you get the point,” she said. “Mandating government paperwork before we can exercise our most fundamental rights, in any other context, sounds absurd.”
According to the latest annual report prepared by the Secretary of State’s Elections Division, 90,769 people were registered to vote through the Motor Voter law in 2020 — including more than 8,000 in Clackamas County.
An additional 20,000 Clackamas Countians used the Motor Voter process to update their registered address or party affiliation last year.
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