Oregon has been a longtime leader in voter participation.
Oregon’s registered voters actually vote, which is why the state is regularly among the highest in the nation in voter turnout.
But if a plan in the Oregon Legislature to make voter registration automatic is approved, look for the percentage of voter participation to decline.
If somebody doesn’t take the time to registered to vote, are they really going to fill out their ballot? Not likely. The result will be a much lower percentage of voter turnout since many registered voters did not want to vote in the first place.
The proposal by Secretary of State Kate Brown, a Democrat, calls for automatically registering those eligible to vote at the time they received or renewed their driver’s license. It is expected to add hundreds of thousands of newly registered voters.
The idea is starting to pick up support in Salem. The proposal was approved by the Joint Ways and Means Committee last week and now goes to the full House for approval. The chances of approval are apparently good as Democrats, who control the House and Senate, generally favor the plan.
Approving this plan is insulting to those who take their citizenship and civic duty seriously.
Voting is a privilege of citizenship. The privilege should be reserved for those who actually want to vote.
And even if the reluctant voters opt to use the ballots they were mailed, will they take the time to consider the issues and candidates’ stands on the issues? Highly unlikely.
Beyond this, the opportunity for voter fraud would increase. When ballots are sent to people not necessarily expecting them the chance they could fall into the wrong hands increases.
The likelihood people ineligible to vote — noncitizens and felons, for example — mistakenly being sent a ballot would increase.
If the goal is to get more people to participate in the election process, this is the wrong approach.
Instead, continue to make voter registration easy and convenient.
Currently there is ample opportunity to register to vote without having to go to a county courthouse. In Oregon (and Washington) people can register to vote when getting their driver’s licenses if they ask and they can also do so online at each state’s secretary of state’s office.
That is pretty darn easy. And it is as easy as it needs to be.
Again, citizens who want to vote must assume some responsibility. That should, at a minimum, include making an effort to register to vote.