Leave it to a state known to be among the first to try new ideas.
That would be Oregon, the state of my birth, which has just become the first state in America to automatically register citizens to vote using data taken from motor vehicle department registration.
Oregon Gov. Kate Brown signed the bill into law.
It’s a fascinating concept. The state is dipping into DMV records to find citizens who aren’t registered to vote. It registers them, but those newly registered voters have 21 days to decide whether they want to remain registered to vote.
In Oregon, that voter registration rolls are expected to swell by 300,000 residents.
What would be the effect in Texas? Let’s see, Oregon’s population is just a shade less than 4 million; Texas’s is 26 million. Would the Texas voter registration rolls increase by, say, 1.8 million to 2 million citizens?
Let’s not get too giddy over this law, though.
Every Republican in the Oregon Legislature opposed the bill, citing concerns about “invasion of privacy.” Oregon’s political balance is fairly equally divided between Democrats and Republicans. If the GOP opposes this kind of voter registration reform nationally, it would seem to have zero chance in a state like Texas, where Republicans command super-majorities in both legislative chambers.
In an era where pols are trying to make voter registration more difficult, it is refreshing to see such a bold new initiative inaugurated in a place where innovation often is the norm.
“I challenge every other state in this nation to examine their policies and to find ways to ensure there are as few barriers as possible for citizens’ right to vote,” Brown said.
Don’t hold your breath, governor, about Texas examining its voter registration policies.
Still, I’m glad to see at least one state taking a proactive approach to working to put more, not fewer, of its residents on its voter registration rolls.