Wouldn’t it be nice to live in a country where election officials WANTED you to vote?
We have to deal with so many reports of voter suppression, (thank you, Republicans), and this election was no different. The lengths to which the Republicans go to stop or hinder voters–especially minority voters–from voting is just breathtaking. But this post-election period, with all the baseless lawsuits in the some swing states that are specifically looking to throw out valid votes in urban cities, has been even worse. It’s no longer their secret strategy; it’s out in the open and blatant.
On the flip side of voter suppression, is of course, how we can go about expanding voting rights. Although there are things we can push for federally (like a new Voting Rights Act), most of what dictates elections happens at the state level. Today, I thought it’d be nice to look at a state that has actually done a good job of expanding voting rights: Oregon.
So what is it that Oregon has that voting rights hero Stacey Abrams likes?
Universal Vote By Mail: In 1998, Oregon voters passed a ballot measure to institute voting by mail. Since 2000, all registered Oregon voters are automatically sent a ballot to their home. No long lines at the polls, or voting machines to deal with.
Postage Paid: The ballot envelopes can either be deposited into one of the many drop boxes around each county, or can be sent through the USPS mail as the postage is already pre-paid.
Special Rules For Military and Overseas Voters: Those voters have their ballots sent earlier than voters who are living in the state, with plenty of time to get to their destination and back to Oregon.
Automatic Voter Registration: The Motor Voter Law automatically registers voters when they apply to get a driver’s license.
Online Registration: Citizens can apply online to register to vote, using a variety of IDs.
Early Registration: Citizens as young as 16 years old can be registered to vote. They won’t receive a ballot until they are 18.
Can Oregon do anything better? Of course. One of the things we don’t have in the state is same-day registration, or the ability for eligible voters to register to vote on an Election Day. We can expand the variety of government services (besides the DMV) that automatically register eligible voters. There’s always more to do to expand voting rights.
That said, Oregon ranks first for access to voting, according to the Cost of Voting Index created by political scientists at a consortium of universities. And how does that affect turnout? Oregon is usually near the top of the list for percent of registered voters who vote — and keep in mind, we aren’t a swing state.
If you’re interested in expanding voting rights in your state, I encourage you to bookmark and follow Brennan Center. Every year, they keep track of voting rights legislation that is working its way through state legislatures. That way, you can put pressure on your state legislators to deliver bills that can improve voting in your state.
Thank you for caring about voting rights!
Want to help with the Georgia Senate runoffs? Check in with Fair Fight’s many volunteering opportunities HERE. They offer training! (For reference, I’ve just included this link in my full guide as well: How To Help Win the 2 Georgia Senate Runoff Elections)