Why Can’t We Be More Like Oregon?

As I’ve previously noted, early in the session, Indiana’s legislature moved quickly to kill a bill that would have kept our polling places open for two extra hours. (Indiana’s polls are the nation’s earliest to close). It was just one more effort to suppress the votes of people–mostly elderly, working poor and/or black–who might vote for the “wrong” party.

If we really wanted our citizens to vote (“we” clearly don’t), we’d take a leaf from Oregon’s book.

Call it “motor voter” on steroids.

New legislation signed into law today in Oregon paves the way for the state to one day have close to 100% voter registration. The new law takes the federal “motor voter” law to new levels and registers a person to vote when they obtain or renew a state driver’s license or ID – and it’s partially retroactive.

The law dictates that once residents interact with the state DMV – whether to get a license or ID for the first time, or renew an existing one – they’ll become registered to vote if they aren’t already. The registration will be provisional for 21 days, during which time applicants will be notified of their new status and be given a chance to become affiliated with a political party or to opt-out of the voting process altogether. In essence, Oregon will now be the first state to approach voting with an “opt-out” mindset, as opposed to “opt-in.”

I’ve written before about the virtues of Oregon’s vote by mail system, which is not only convenient, but allows time for thoughtful consideration of ballot choices. Every registered voter is automatically sent a ballot about two weeks before Election Day, and can either mail their ballots back or return them in person.

According to the Oregonian, 

Because of Oregon’s careful signature verification process, fraud and other electoral mischief are virtually nil.

Recounts in extremely close races are based on paper ballots of every vote — not receipts or electronic voting machines. So there’s no danger in Oregon of software hackers casting ersatz votes by the thousands — not to mention no electricity to operate electronic voting machines or impassable roads and polling places 3 feet underwater.

In the 2014 midterm election, 53.5% of Oregon’s registered voters actually voted. The state was fifth in voter turnout

Indiana was dead last. Gee–I wonder why.


  1. Vote suppression, destruction of public education (informed citizenry), legalized discrimination, wage suppression, marginalize unions, denigrate teachers, ignore the will of those who do vote in favor of political appointees (Glenda Ritz), ethics violations everywhere, to name just a few of the wonders of Indiana politics. Vote suppression insures the outcomes of all that follows. The fraud that gets cited as the basis for the suppressive legislation is singularly insignificant/non-existent statistically. Of course, people get intimidated, disengaged and disgusted. They believe, and rightly so in many cases, that the system is rigged in favor of the powerful and corrupt.

  2. Indiana’s voter suppression was led by Congressman Rokita. As many said at the time, it was a solution in search of a problem. Snarky republican smiles all around: we have duped the public again and strengthened our ability to do it in the future! No end in sight.

  3. Years ago I worked an election day phone blitz for Mayor Bill Hudnut’s reelction. It was a cold, windy day with heavy rains; our call lists were long and we found many with no way to get to the polls in the terrible weather. Bless him; Mayor Hudnut had pre-arranged transportation for just such a situation. And, OMG, remember Mayor Bill was and is a Republican. This is another form of “motor voter”; is it still in action?

    We shouldn’t have to force people to register to vote; we need to clean up the current horrific political agenda – gerrymandering, Citizens United, squandering tax dollars on publically opposed recipients and sports arenas- such as Angie’s List and the soccer field to name two – legally fight passage of blatantly discriminatory bills such as the current “Religious Freedom”, which is always in quotation marks denoting it is a play on words. We are victims, being held hostage by the privately owned current administration in this state – and worse, by the privately owned Congress at the federal level. People must have a good reason to vote; the current political atmosphere does not promote good reason. Provide the OPTION to those who obtain or renew drivers license, upon graduation from high school if age 18, appying for any public assistance; there is an endless list of opportunities to provide this OPTION. Forcing registration will NOT force them to vote – what is next – forcing people to the polls.

    I had a friend in Florida; 86 year old Gertrud Grundling, she came to this country from Germany in (I think) 1932. She had to have government permission and documentation to leave the country for the U.S. Two days before her departure, members of the Nazi party came to her home, forced her to the polls (their elections lasted days) and forced her to vote for Adolph Hitler – the only candidate on the ballot. Do we really want to head in this direction?

  4. I love when Hoosiers gloat over all the corrupt state officials in our neighboring state to the west get sent to prison. They view it as a source of pride. I also love to point out the only difference between Indiana and Illinois is that we don’t prosecute our criminal Boss Hogg-like “leaders”. If worse comes to worst, they get cush lobbying jobs in DC or take some time off to write papers for vile think tanks like the Hudson Institute. I don’t know why we keep bothering with elections when it’s clear our “government” has clearly been outsourced to a group whose only interest us to play games with the people’s rights, health, and quality of life to distract them while they strip mine Indiana for everything its got. See Indiana Toll Road. See Indianapolis’ parking meters. See Indianapolis’ air quality. See Jud McMillan still in office.

  5. Daleb is right. Rokita is the Satan behind Indiana’s attack on citizen participation in government – just the way Republicans like it.

    I’m not sure I want voter registration coupled to vehicle registration. If you register your car to your mother’s house, your brother’s house, your office, etc., under the Charlie White Rule, Indiana would have a way to make you a voting felon for merely registering your car. In oppressive states like Indiana, it’s best to keep the consequences of dealing with the government to a minimum. Leave voting to rich people who own houses and have kept the same address for 15 years. Long-term homeowners are about the only ones who can safely prove that they are established enough to escape a voter fraud prosecution.

    I dislike the idea of voter registration, altogether. When you stick a form in front of a right, you cool the right, and you turn the right into a license.

    If you really want to annoy the Republicans, drop voter registration altogether and move voting to weekends.

  6. Sadly, I can’t say that more voters turning out is a great idea. The candidates that are offered (from both major political parties) are more often than not dogmatic, unthinking turkeys. Look at the current Indiana Representatives expressing interest in the seat of Senator Coats. So many of the candidates have no interest in learning about the issues our nation faces and listening to people who actually know something. They are happy to tout “Hoosier values” (whatever the hell those are) and “common sense” (which used to say rubbing butter on a burn was a good remedy), but they don’t know the first thing about the constitutional system we have. More votes for dumb candidates (on both sides of the aisle) won’t help us.

  7. In the Great Oligarchy Plot continuous training video known as media there have been several milestones. One is the day that they were instructed that those “others” were committing massive voter fraud and electing people dark skinned like themselves. As soon as the heads started bobbling the politicians went to work solving the problem that they created from thin air. This is of course at the expense of democratic governing.

    I’m not sure which is worse. Knowing that our generation is the laughing stock of the world now or of future generations. Perhaps that’s behind the current GOP drive to rewrite history books. Change what was to what’s exceptional. Or at least what’s scripted.

  8. How is it “voter suppression” by not extending the hours for voting from what it is currently? If you want to say voting wasn’t expanded that is a reasonable statement. But you can’t say that the failure to pass the bill “suooressed” voting.

    The photo ID. has not lead to a decline in voting. The claim of GOP measures to suppress voting is nothing more than political rhetoric. Voting in Indiana has not declined.

  9. By your logic, Paul, it is not suppressing alcohol sales to forbid Sunday sales. Of course, this position is ridiculous, as limiting the ability of a person to access the market is suppression, be it the market for alcohol or government participation.

    Short voting hours, inconvenient polling places and administrative burdens on voting are all quite clearly suppressions of the vote.

  10. Not really sure why you’re digging your heels in on this, Paul.

    It’s the People’s government. All the elected offices serve the People. Why shouldn’t we have the broadest possible means of allowing people to participate in their own government?

    Government should be looking at elections like McDonald’s looks at their store hours – casting the widest possible net to catch as many customers as possible and doing its best to serve the customer.

  11. The comments by almost everyone in this discussion are really good, except for the one where it’s claimed that “voting has not declined”. If Indiana was dead last in voter turnout during the last election, how much further does participation have to drop before you feel you can make the statement that voting has declined?

    Frankly, this set of awful circumstances has stemmed from a stew of problems, including lack of choice among candidates, poorly communicated agendas, the purposeful use of demagoguery and ideology to cloud over important issues, voter suppression attempts and voters throwing up their hands after being dragged through our despicable legislative process. It’s very interesting that members of the legislature don’t seem to view this as a failure of democracy, or at least if they do, not serious enough to mention or do anything about it.

  12. As a former resident of Oregon I have to say I was rather fond of their vote by mail system. It seemed to encourage the formation of small activist networks that were able to participate in the system as opposed to how things are in Indiana where it seems that only connections and money matter. I frequently saw an informed electorate, albeit one that seemed lacking in logic. I just wish more people here in Indiana would take civic participation seriously and hold all of our public servants accountable for their actions.

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