Online Voter Registration in Oregon, An Open Letter to State Government

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By Tim Young of Portland, Oregon. Tim is a former student body president at Portland State and a former member of the Oregon State Board of Higher Education. In 2009, Tim contributed "Saving democracy by investing in higher education".

The new online voter registration web-page at the secretary of state’s website is a great idea. Citizens can go to the site and register to vote in their slippers and pajamas if they want to. What a great way to encourage participation in our democracy?

However, I've been thinking (along with some others) about how to make this site even better and have it register even more citizens to vote. Why not require all state entities to have links off their websites to the secretary of state’s voter registration website so that anyone who files for unemployment online, registers for classes at their university or community college’s website, or goes to the D.M.V.’s website will be reminded to register to vote in perpetuity? How pro-democracy would Oregon look compared to other states if we had such a system?

The secretary of state’s voter registration website registered over 71,000 citizens between March 2010 and February 2011 without being interconnected with the rest of state government, or beyond. That represents nearly 22% of all voter registrations during that time. Imagine what the site could do if it were interconnected?

That is why I am asking the governor, and whomever else wants to help, to expand online voter registration in this manner. It is federal law that states make a good faith effort to register citizens to vote, virtually interconnecting all state entities’ websites to online voter registration would help to accomplish that goal. Moreover, those using government services should be reminded to vote and state government should be held accountable to those voters. This is a small step in that direction, but could serve our democracy usefully for years to come.

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