Washington, DC – Today, members of the Democracy Initiative released statements supporting the passage of HB 2177, also known as the New Motor Voter. This bill, expected to be signed by Governor Kate Brown, makes voter registration simple and convenient for busy Oregon families, seniors and students by using data the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) currently collects to register eligible voters and update address information for already registered voters.
Oregon has been a Motor Voter state since the passage of the federal 1993 National Voter Registration Act (NVRA) to register eligible voters and update address information for existing voters, sharing data between the DMV and the Office of the Secretary of State. Unfortunately it remains a cumbersome paper process and this bill utilizes existing computer technology to streamline the procedure.
According to data from the Census Bureau Current Population Survey (CPS), in 2008 90% of registered voters and in 2012 87% of registered voters exercised their right to vote, compared with general population turnouts of 64% and 62% respectively. Oregon’s new legislation is a way for more Americans to have their voices heard in our democracy.
Continue reading for statements from member organizations and allies of the Democracy Initiative.
From Nathan Howard, Oregon Bus Project Interim Executive Director:
"Oregon is a land of firsts: Vote by Mail, Public Beaches, the Bottle Bill. When there’s a problem, this state finds an answer and leads the way. And the Beaver State just did it again.
“Today Oregon passed the New Motor Voter, becoming the first state in America to proclaim: If you are an eligible voter, it is our policy to get you a ballot. We at the Oregon Bus Project are absolutely thrilled to see this important piece of legislation heading to the Governor’s desk.
“Efficiency, security, and accuracy are reason enough to cheer the passage of New Motor Voter. But we are most excited by the citizens who lacked access to the system before and will finally be heard. Rural Oregonians, who have never been reached by the Oregon Bus Project's nonpartisan voter registration drives. Disadvantaged young people who were never taught they needed to register. Working parents who too often moved houses and missed their ballots. And so many more citizens, with experiences and opinions that deserve representation.
“As these new voters enter our democracy, many will be hungry for information and education on the issues.
And the Oregon Bus Project will be ready and excited to help."
From Miles Rapoport, Common Cause President:
“Oregon is blazing a trail today toward a stronger democracy for its citizens and the rest of the country. By adding newly licensed drivers and those renewing their licenses to the voter rolls, the state is making it simpler and easier for Oregonians to vote,” Rapoport said. "It’s estimated that this reform could add 300,000 people to the electorate in Oregon alone, cutting in half the number of people there who are eligible to register but haven’t done so. This is a step every state should take, and the sooner the better.”
From the Communications Workers of America (CWA):
“The Communications Workers of America (CWA) applauds the Oregon legislature’s passage of the “new motor voter bill,” or HB 2177, which will make voter registration straightforward and convenient for working families. It will tear down obstacles to voting and aid students and citizens who face disenfranchisement simply because of frequent changes in their address.
“The Oregon statute is a model for a nation that’s committed to protecting the voting rights of its citizens and expanding the numbers of people who participate in our democracy.
“Together, with our Democracy Initiative allies, we’re building a real movement to usher in a 21st democracy where all Americans can make their voices heard on Election Day, and where every vote counts.”
From Rachel Butler, Greenpeace USA Democracy Campaigner:
"Oregon’s new voting rights law is a huge win for we the people, our democracy and our climate. It’s often those most at risk from pollution that are most likely to have their voices and their votes suppressed. Meanwhile fossil fuel companies use their billions to make sure politics favors the polluters. More representative elections in Oregon means a chance to reset the balance."
From Cornell William Brooks, NAACP President & CEO:
“Democracy is stronger in Oregon today by passing a historic bill that will dramatically expand access to its elections. This measure will add hundreds of thousands of eligible voters to the registration rolls, providing more Oregonians the opportunity to weigh in on issues that affect their family and community. While Oregon is now at the forefront of election reform we continue to witness many states across the country restrict access to the ballot box. We hope that other states across the country follow Oregon’s lead in expanding voting rights for it citizens.”
From Michael Brune, Sierra Club Executive Director:
“This legislation is a huge victory for everyone who agrees with the fundamentally American idea that every citizen should have the same opportunity to have their voice heard in our democracy.
“When hurdles that keep Americans from the polls are in place, it empowers those big polluters and corporations that already have a massively outsized influence on our government. And, all too often, these obstacles disenfranchise low income people and communities of color who are facing the worst assaults on clean air, clean water, and public health launched by those same polluters.
“Our democracy can thrive when everyone is on a level playing field, which is why registering to vote should be easy, fair, and transparent. The Sierra Club applauds all those who fought for this bill that recognizes that essential American principle.”
Read the complete release here.
From Cecile Richards, Planned Parenthood Action Fund President:
“Voting is a fundamental right that should not only be protected, but made more accessible. At a time when the nation is reflecting on the 50th anniversary of the passage of the Voting Rights Act, there’s still much more to be done to make this basic right available to everyone. Congress must act to fix the Supreme Court’s decision to gut a key provision of this important law. Oregon’s actions today are a step in the right direction, and we hope other states will follow suit.”
From National Action Network:
“The right to vote provides a foundation that makes all other rights possible. The Department of Motor Vehicles is one major way Americans register to vote. Oregon’s new motor voter, HB 2177 will streamline voter registration for eligible voters and existing registered voters making it easier to register to vote or update their address information. Using the data DMV currently collects for driver licenses will offer an accurate process that is widely accessible and easy to navigate. National Action Network (NAN) continues to support protecting, modernizing and expanding the right to vote nationwide.”
From Joe Velasquez, Executive Director of National Council of La Raza Action Fund:
"Oregon's move to universal voter registration follows our democracy's true intent everyone has the right to vote. Barriers should never be placed upon voters, instead Americans should be encouraged to be active participants in our democracy.
"NCLR Action Fund commends Oregon's new Governor Kate Brown and its legislatures on their work to expand voting rights.”
From the United States Students Association and Oregon Students Association:
"The United States Student Association in conjunction with our statewide affiliate The Oregon Students Association is happy to support the passage of Oregon House Bill 2177, known as New Motor Voter. Oregon’s HB 2177 updates the current process for the Secretary of State’s Office and the Division of Motor Vehicles (DMV) to register citizens who are eligible to vote. The passage of New Motor Voter helps expand access to the ballot to hundreds of thousands of Oregonians and creates a secure, safe, and seamless process that helps typically underrepresented individuals participate in political dialogue.
“It is a priority of the United States Student Association and the Oregon Student Association to engage students in the electoral process and ensure that they can actively participate in our democracy. Every two years, the Oregon Student Association runs the largest nonpartisan voter registration, voter education, and get out the vote drive in Oregon. The Oregon Student Association’s 2014 vote drive resulted in a record-breaking 55,578 people registered to vote by Oregon students, with over 40,000 nonpartisan voter education guides distributed, and over 100,000 individual voter turnout contacts made. We strongly support making voter registration a simple and easy process without barriers so that every eligible person can be registered to vote. We believe that the passage of Oregon’s HB 2177 will help ensure that even more students can actively participate in future elections.
“The United States Student Association and the Oregon Student Association applaud the passage of HB 2177 because it aspires to create a system where all eligible voters can easily register to vote and helps close the book on historic injustices relating to voting access. We believe that participating in our democracy should be as easy and accessible as possible and we believe Oregon’s HB 2177 does just that."
From Campaign for America’s Future:
“Key to restoring the voice of ordinary citizens in a democracy is lowering barriers to the ballot box, not raising them. Oregon’s motor voter bill is an example of the kind of process that should exist throughout the country. Integrating existing technology used to verify persons for driver’s licenses and state IDs into the voter registration process helps safeguard against fraud without potentially disenfranchising groups of voters. We urge the state legislature to adopt this bill and keep Oregon in the forefront of making democracy accessible to all.”
From Katrina Gamble, Center for Popular Democracy Director of Civic Engagement and Politics:
“We congratulate Oregon legislators, and the voter advocates who have worked for years to secure this major victory for voting rights. This expansion in access to the vote is important for our country, our families, and our democratic process.
“That this bill passes near the 50th anniversary of historic march in Selma, Alabama and the passage of the Voting Rights Act makes it particularly meaningful. Its passage also comes against a backdrop of deep struggle where powerful interests are trying to curtail the voting rights of people of color, the poor, young people and the elderly.
“Fifty years after Selma, we should not still be fighting for the right to vote. We are committed to the struggle for justice and will continue to fight for transformative voting reforms that expand the realm of what’s possible to create a truly democratic society.
“That day will come thanks to victories like the one in Oregon today. As we gear up for next steps, we join our partners in celebrating this important accomplishment. It’s a victory for families in Oregon, and an important step for our country.”
From Wenonah Hauter, Food & Water Watch Executive Director:
“By streamlining the process of registering voters, the New Motor Voter law will make participating in democracy easier for Oregonians. Given the millions of dollars corporate interests like the Koch Brothers spend in elections, it’s vital that everyone can register and vote to push back against policies that threaten our air, water, and food.”
From People for the American Way:
“With new barriers to voting taking root across the country and voting discrimination still a persistent problem, it can be easy to believe that as a country, we are only turning back the clock on voting rights. But this win in Oregon underscores the fact that when we work together to make it easier rather than harder to cast a ballot, we can set an example of how to strengthen our democracy.”
From Nick Nyhart, Public Campaign President and CEO:
“The best way to keep our democracy from falling into the hands of billionaires is to ensure that everyday Americans have a meaningful say in politics. Ensuring that every eligible Oregonian is able to vote is an important step in protecting our democracy.”
From Robert Weissman, Public Citizen President:
“In eliminating needless bureaucratic hurdles to voting, Oregon is delivering on the promise of democracy and setting an example for the country. At a time when so many states are shamefully restricting the right to vote, it’s inspiring to see Oregon remove obstacles to the franchise.”
From Dave Rosenfeld, Oregon State Public Interest Research Group (PIRG) Executive Director:
“Voting is a both a sacred American right and a great responsibility. It is important that our voting systems are set up and managed for simplicity of use and utmost integrity. One logistical step in that system is to determine both a person’s citizenship (and thus, eligibility to vote) and domicile. From our nation’s founding through the 20th century, this end could only be achieved by requiring citizens to submit a unique registration form to elections officials – initially and each time a citizen changed addresses. Today, that same end can often be achieved through a secure electronic transfer of existing Oregon Department of Transportation customer records to elections officials. Moving in this direction moves us one step closer to a nimbler, more-user friendly government.
“It is important to remember that all we are talking about is a logistical step that is needed to determine one’s eligibility to vote and current address. The choice to actually cast a ballot remains – as it should – an intensely private decision that each and every individual must make for themselves. Nothing in HB 2177 tampers with that basic right. Instead, HB 2177 makes that one logistical step work a little bit more efficiently and frees up Oregon citizens to focus even more of their attentions on the important and difficult work of citizenship. We commend Oregon’s lawmakers and Governor Kate Brown for taking this important step.”
The Democracy Initiative (DI) is a network of 55 civil rights, environmental, labor, and civic organizations formed to restore the core principles of democracy and political equality. Originally formed in 2012, the DI represents more than 35 million members nationwide.