By Reuben Schafir
CatlinSpeak (Portland, Oregon)
The Oregon House of Representatives voted and passed House Bill 2177, otherwise known as the New Motor Voter Bill, on Friday Feb. 20.
The New Motor Voter Bill, which would change the voter registration process dramatically, facilitates the registration of many of the 800,000 unregistered voters in Oregon. Within five years, projections show that over 90 percent of Oregon’s eligible voters will be registered.
“It takes the existing relationship between the Department of Motor Vehicles and the Secretary of State’s Office and it expands it,” says the Interim Executive Director of The Bus Project Nathan Howard. “This allows everyone to be registered just by interacting with the DMV.”
The Bus Project, founded by Jefferson Smith in 2002, promotes the involvement of youth in political action. They have been pushing for The New Motor Voter Bill for nearly a decade Howard said. “Today is a historic day for the Bus Project.”Some opponents of the bill, such as Rep. Carl Wilson (R) from Josephine County, argued that it the bill would impose too much on poorer areas of Oregon.
Other opponents fiercely argued that a process which forces people to opt-out of having their information sent to the Secretary of State’s office violates privacy rights and is an invasion of privacy on the part of the government.
Rep. Shemia Fagan (D), the Rep. from the 51st district, stood up and delivered a passionate speech addressing the matter.
“We do not need to sign-up for our other constitutional rights,” said Fagan.
While other Republicans argued that this bill is unnecessary because there aren’t many barriers in the voter registration process, Rep. Hoyle (who carried the bill), responded by saying, “why not?”
The Republican fear, while it was never said on the floor, is this: every 17 year old getting their driver license will be automatically registered to vote. And that is one more person registered to vote who will (statistics show most likely) be voting Democrat.
“There are currently 800,000 unregistered oregonians,” said Howard. The goal is to “get as many people on the voting poles that are eligible as possible. People who don’t want to be registered don’t have to.”
The bill was introduced to the house by then Secretary of State (Now Gov.) Kate Brown, who said in a press conference Friday Feb. 20, “I will definitely sign the New Motor Voter Bill.”
The Senate will vote on the bill on Monday, March 2, and it is expected to pass.
Photo Credit: Reuben Schafir