January 28, 2009
Secretary of State Kate Brown
Online Voter Registration
House Rules Committee
Good afternoon. I’m happy to be with you today.
I’m here today because I want to make voter registration as secure and hassle-free as possible.
We have always taken great pride in Oregon in leading the country on election issues. We were one of the pioneers of the citizen initiative, the direct primary and, of course, vote-by-mail.
Today we ask you to again make Oregon one of the national leaders by approving online voter registration.
You have before you an editorial on this topic from the Oregonian last month and some frequently asked questions about how the state of Washington handles its online registration.
I want to be very clear. This is not online voting. That’s not allowed under state law. This is online registration.
Online registration would allow citizens to register or change some registration information – a new address, for example – without paper, without burning gasoline and without delay.
This is a natural step in making the voting process easier for Oregonians.
Most Oregonians are already confident enough to go online for many sensitive services. Some of us pay our state and federal taxes online, buy stock, do our banking and shop with credit cards.
It would, first of all, make the process easier for the disabled community. With the right computer equipment, sightless people, for example, can register without needing the assistance of another person to fill out a card.
Our voters in the military would find a lot less delay in registering. They wouldn’t have to worry about whether the snail mail will deliver their registration in time.
And it would make registering easier for young people, who are more comfortable than the rest of us -- except maybe Rep. Jensen -- in conducting business on line.
We saw a big jump in voter turnout among the under-24 crowd last year.
The turnout in that age group was 69 percent, which is a lot higher than in the past. But believe me, they have a long way to go to catch up with people in their 60s. Their turnout was 95 percent last year.
Online registration is a step in the right direction and would help harness that energy from young people and encourage them to stay interested in public policy. And, well, they wouldn’t have to buy a stamp.
Other states have seen big jumps in registration after going online. Washington started online registration at the beginning of 2008 and within three months that’s how nearly one of every three voters registered.
They registered 158,000 voters through the online system last year.
Arizona started on-line in 2002 and that’s how more than 70 percent of the new voters registered last year.
It’s a simple process. Here we can look at how Washington does it.
For our purposes, only people with a valid Oregon driver’s license or ID card will be eligible to register online. That means the state will already have their signature, which is needed, of course, for voting.
The applicant must sign an oath swearing that all the information is true, just like with a print application.
And just like with a print application, lying online about your residency, your citizenship or any other qualifications is class C felony. Let me say that again: a class C felony.
It’s important to note here that Washington has had online registration for a year but seen no problems with fraud and neither has Arizona, which has had it for five years.
I think the benefits are clear. If we increase registration, as other states have done, we will get more people voting and more people engaged in the public policy process. And that’s a goal I think we all share.
There are some costs associated with the project but they’re not major.
The cost of setting up the system providing the signature transfer from DMV to elections would run about $17,000. There would also be an additional cost of getting the DMV data on a regular basis. But we expect that it would qualify for HAVA funding because it’s an improvement to the state registration system.
And we’d need to enhance OCVR, the statewide voter database. We don’t have a final estimate on the cost, but Washington spent $278,000 for similar revisions and we expect our costs will wind up somewhere in that range.
We saw record numbers of registered voters last year and the third highest turnout in history. We have a great opportunity to make our record even more impressive.
Thank you for your time. I’d especially like to thank Rep. Cannon for his leadership and his support.
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