Voting should be encouraged. Government should not create obstacles to registering to vote. In fact, government should make it a simple, easy process to cast a ballot.
But a proposal in Oregon to automatically register people to vote when getting their driver’s license goes too far — way, way too far.
Voting is a privilege of citizenship. As such, those who exercise that privilege should have to — at the very least — want to vote.
Currently, people in Oregon, Washington and most states have ample opportunity to register to vote without having to go to a county courthouse. In Washington and Oregon, 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.
Isn’t that easy enough?
Apparently Oregon Secretary of State Kate Brown doesn’t think so. She sees the potential to add hundreds of thousands of new voters in Oregon. She wants nearly every adult in Oregon to automatically get a ballot in their mailbox.
Under Brown’s measure, the Driver and Motor Vehicle Services Division would be required to send names, ages, addresses, citizenship details and digital signatures to the Secretary of State’s Office. Those who meet the legal requirements to vote would be registered (if they aren’t already) and would then receive a letter with instructions to cancel their registration or join a political party if they wished to do so.
Sending out voter registrations as if they were sweepstakes entries is opening a door to voter fraud. When ballots are sent to people not necessarily expecting them the chance they could fall into the wrong hands increases.
In addition, the likelihood of people ineligible to vote, such as noncitizens or felons, mistakenly being sent a ballot would increase.
While we agree nobody who is eligible should be excluded, voting is not a right explicitly stated in the U.S. Constitution. States can, and do, set qualifications for voters.
The privilege to vote is something we, in a free society, should cherish. It’s deplorable when only one in four eligible voters even bothers to return their ballots, which happens in some elections.
It is important that voters actually want to vote. Making the (minimal) effort to register to vote increases the chances the voter will be engaged in the election process and take the time to cast an informed ballot.
Automatic voter registration is a lousy idea.