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Putting automatic voter registration on the table

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When we talk about election reforms, we tend to focus on worthwhile proposals to reduce long lines, expand early voting, and ease the voter-registration process.

But Oregon's Democratic Secretary of State has an even more ambitious idea, which hasn't generated as much attention as it deserves (via Rick Hasen).

Secretary of State Kate Brown has a proposal, based on what Oregon has learned over two decades' experience with the mail ballot: Getting to vote should be easy, not hard.

Brown has introduced House Bill 2198, which would allow the state to automatically register any Oregonian when a state agency already has their name, age, address and digital signature. Right now that means Driver and Motor Vehicle Services, but it could extend to other agencies. Following this system in other places achieves registration of more than 90 percent of eligible voters.

Just using DMV records, Brown estimates that another 500,000 Oregonians would get the power to decide, at the end of October or the beginning of November, that a candidate has finally inspired or annoyed them enough to make them decide to vote.

It's a right they should have.

Of course it is. Politics notwithstanding -- Republicans have come to believe their success is dependent on less voter participation and more restrictions -- if a state government already has the pertinent information, why not make it easy for folks and register voters automatically? It would still be up to individuals whether to vote or not, but it would be one less barrier

Jonathan Bernstein added, "There's absolutely no good reason for such proposals not to be adopted -- and not just state-by-state, either. There's no good reason for the burden of voter registration to be on the voter, instead of on the government."

Plenty of modern democracies around the world already have automatic registration. There's no reason the United States can't do the same.

For the record, the Oregon Republican Party has already criticized the idea, saying it shouldn't be "so easy for people to participate" that they fail to become "an informed voter." (Don't ask me to explain this argument; I don't understand it, either.) Greg Leo, the executive director of the state GOP, added that the act of registering to vote is part of the responsibility of citizenship, so the burden should remain on voters.