Oregon's Voting Rights Victory

June 24, 2009

We're recovering here in Washington, DC from a major Metro accident (it happens to impact me as I use the line that the accident occurred on), so I'm going to focus on something progressive that happened far, far away. Oregon progressives have been celebrating a voting-rights victory this week. Both houses of the Oregon legislature have passed a new bill that will allow Oregon voters to register online. A press release from lead sponsor Representative Ben Cannon elaborates:

[the law] would model Oregon's online voter registration system on those of Washington and Arizona, where the programs have proven extremely popular. In 2003, the first year of Arizona's Online Voter Registration program, 25 percent of all new voter registrations were done online. In 2007, that percentage jumped to 72 percent. After Washington implemented online voter registration, 1,634 online applications were recorded in the first three days and 38 percent of all Washington voter registrations in 2008 were done online.

The bill received an impressive amount of bipartisan support in the Oregon house. Only nine members voted against the bill in its final form.

Online voter registration is an important step for opening up the democratic process and ensuring that the widest possible group of people have access to the electoral process. The numbers cited by Cannon in many ways speaks for themselves -- people clearly find online voter registration convenient and use it if given to the option. The Bus Project played a large role in ensuring the perspective of young people was heard during this debate.

Ultimately, this bill is about culture change. There's no reason why Americans shouldn't be able to register to vote online when we can use so many other government and financial services online. Young people, particularly, need to view voting as a modern thing that is accessible -- being able to register online is an important part of ensuring that the election process keeps up with culture.

Adam Waxman is WireTap's Washington, D.C.-based blogger. He currently works in the business department at The American Prospect, a D.C.-based magazine that covers politics and policy. Along with WireTap, his work has been published in Alternet.org, The Nation, and other publications. Email him at adam DOT waxman AT gmail DOT com.





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