This memorandum addresses the effects of Automatic Voter Registration (AVR) in Oregon, also known as Oregon Motor Voter (OMV), on registration rates. OMV has significantly increased the registration rates among rural voters. This secure new process for voter registration added over 282,000 new voters to the rolls in its first year of implementation.“Oregon Motor Voter: Cumulative Program Statistics Through December 31, 2016“. 2018. sos.oregon.gov.
In 2015, the state of Oregon passed a first-in-the-nation Automatic Voter Registration law, which automates the verification and registration processes for new voters in Oregon, as well as for updating voter information. The OMV law changed the way Oregonians registered to vote and created a secure system in which only eligible citizens would be automatically registered to vote by the Office of Motor Vehicles.Griffin, Rob, Paul Gronke, Tova Wang, and Liz Kennedy. 2017. “Who Votes With Automatic Voter Registration?“.
Oregon’s Motor Voter program utilized the information collected when applying for a driver’s license, learner’s permit, or ID card, and transmitted that data to the Elections Division of the Office of the Secretary of State.Ibid. The Motor Voter system in Oregon requires individuals to confirm their citizenship and also automatically updates the voter registration file of individuals who are registered and updating their addresses. Oregon’s system also ensures that individuals who have protected or confidential information do not have their records transmitted to the Secretary of State’s office. All registrants receive postcards from the Oregon Elections Division following their transaction at the Office of Motor Vehicles that informs them they have been registered to vote, allows them to return and decline registration, and allows them to register with an affiliation with a political party.Ibid.
In OMV’s first year of implementation, the Oregon Motor Voter program went on to register over 272,000 new voters.Ibid. In a 2017 report, Center for American Progress identified the accuracy and security that OMV brought to the state. Center for American Progress identified that OMV postcards returned resulted in over 30,000 new political party affiliates, although the overwhelming majority of new voters did not select a political party, keeping with a trend we see across the country. The report also found that of the over 1.4 million electronic records transfers between the Office of Motor Vehicles and the Secretary of State, over 75% matched an existing registered voter, ensuring address updates and the most accurate rolls possible. Additionally, the accuracy of the OMV program resulted in approximately 3% of postcards being undeliverable/unregistered. Those undeliverable addresses were not added to the rolls.
The Center for American Progress report also goes on to discuss the populations most benefitting from AVR laws like Oregon’s Motor Voter law. These groups include younger voters and rural voters.
II. GEOGRAPHIC ANALYSIS
To better understand the benefits of the policy in Oregon, we need to understand the geographic breakdown of the policy. Like many states, Oregon faces a challenge in more rural counties retaining young people who often move away for job opportunities elsewhere.
The two tables below contain data from the Oregon Secretary of State’s December 31, 2016 cumulative report on registration rates from the first year of Oregon’s Motor Voter program broken down by county.
|County||Automatically Registered as Nonaffiliated“Oregon Motor Voter: Cumulative Program Statistics Through December 31, 2016“. 2018. sos.oregon.gov.||Voter Party
|County||Automatically Registered as Nonaffiliated“Oregon Motor Voter: Cumulative Program Statistics Through December 31, 2016“. 2018.||Voter Party
|Population“County Populations“. 2018. sos.oregon.gov.|
The first table identifies new registrants within rural counties. For the purpose of this data, “rural” is used to describe a county with a population of 100,000 people or less or lacking an “urban” population center with 50,000 or more inhabitants, as defined by the US Census Bureau.“Urban And Rural“. 2018. census.gov.
The Center for American Progress identifies that AVR registrants are more likely to be rural voters and less likely to come from urban areas.Griffin, Rob, Paul Gronke, Tova Wang, and Liz Kennedy. 2017. “Who Votes With Automatic Voter Registration?“.
When examining the registration rates among rural and urban counties, displayed above, one can see that of the approximately 282,000 new registrants in the first year of OMV as reported by the Secretary of State, over one quarter of those registrants were rural voters. Automatic voter registration in Oregon registered over 74,000 rural voters in its first year. This is good news for rural counties. As a percentage of their population, rural voters saw their registration rates skyrocket, sometimes close to 10 percentage points. For example, Multnomah, the largest and most urban county in Oregon by population, only saw an approximate 6% increase in registered eligible voters, while smaller rural counties Coos and Curry saw a 10% and 11% increase of registered eligible voters, respectively.
OMV has ensured the accuracy of new eligible voters, maintained the most up-to-date information on existing voters, created the most secure and efficient system for voter registration, and helped register voter who would’ve otherwise been left unregistered. The effectiveness of Oregon’s automatic voter registration law, particularly among rural voters, is undeniable.
|↑1||“Oregon Motor Voter: Cumulative Program Statistics Through December 31, 2016“. 2018. sos.oregon.gov.|
|↑2||Griffin, Rob, Paul Gronke, Tova Wang, and Liz Kennedy. 2017. “Who Votes With Automatic Voter Registration?“.|
|↑6||“Oregon Motor Voter: Cumulative Program Statistics Through December 31, 2016“. 2018. sos.oregon.gov.|
|↑10||“Oregon Motor Voter: Cumulative Program Statistics Through December 31, 2016“. 2018.|
|↑13||“County Populations“. 2018. sos.oregon.gov.|
|↑14||“Urban And Rural“. 2018. census.gov.|
|↑15||Griffin, Rob, Paul Gronke, Tova Wang, and Liz Kennedy. 2017. “Who Votes With Automatic Voter Registration?“.|