[JURIST] Oregon Governor Kate Brown [official profile] on Monday signed a new law that makes Oregon the first state in the nation to institute automatic voter registration. House Bill 2177 [text, PDF], informally called the Motor Voter legislation, will use data from the state Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) to automatically register eligible voters in the DMV system. The name, age, citizenship and residency data of all eligible voters will be sent to the Secretary of State, who will then complete the registration process from this information. The new voters will be sent a postcard detailing their new registered status and will explain how to take advantage of the 21-day opt-out period if the voter wishes to do so. The voters will be registered as unaffiliated, but the postcard will also tell voters how to register for a political party. This legislation is expected to add 300,000 new voters [AP report]. Some members of the Oregon state legislature are concerned about the ongoing privacy of DMV information and the cost of implementing the law. Oregon has one of the highest voter registration rates in the nation with 73 percent of its citizens registered to vote and 70 percent casting ballots in the 2014 general election.
While Oregon is the only state to implement such sweeping registration legislation, debate over voter ID laws [JURIST op-ed; JURIST backgrounder] has sparked continuing controversy in the US. In November a federal appeals court rejected [JURIST report] a Kansas rule that required prospective voters to show proof-of-citizenship documents before registering to vote. In October the US Supreme Court allowed [JURIST report] Texas to enforce a strict 2011 voter ID law requiring voters to show photo ID at the polls. Also in October the Arkansas Supreme Court [official website] struck down [JURIST report] that state’s voter ID law as unconstitutional.