Oregon's anti-democratic voter registration deadline

There's just six days left to register to vote, even though there's 27 days left before election day.

(You can check to make sure your voter registration is all good at OregonVotes.org -- and check your friends and family, too!)

The Oregonian's Rick Attig has editorialized against Oregon's three-weeks-out voter registration deadline, calling it "ridiculously premature, and anti-democratic to boot":

It makes no sense, none, for states with sophisticated centralized voter registration systems like Oregon's to force voters to register long before Election Day, and long before many busy people are engaged in politics.

It's not 1986 anymore, when the panicked state wrote the long voter registration deadline into the state constitution after the attempted election fraud by the followers of Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh, whose supporters hatched the idea of busing in homeless people to vote. The scheme failed, and here we are, 22 years later, disenfranchising thousands of people who don't realize until it's too late that Oregon has a 20-day cutoff for voter registration.

Thus, Oregon makes it much quicker and easier to buy a handgun than to register to vote. Oregon has an instant-check system that will let you walk out of a store with a gun in a few minutes. But if you want to vote in an election, Oregon requires a 20-day waiting period.

That's nuts.

Read the rest. Discuss.

  • Joel H (unverified)

    I agree completely, but what have handguns got to do with it? You can buy a house or join the military in under 20 days, too.

  • Valkraider (unverified)

    Bad comparison. It does not take 20 days to register to vote. I can register to vote in mere seconds. Much faster than handguns houses and join the military. And as a veteran I doubt you can join the military in less than 20 days.

    It also does not take 20 days to vote. I vote in maybe 15 to 30 minutes depending on my familiarty with the issues.

    I support the 20 day deadline, but aside from idealogical differences, I find this article to b misleading.

    There is a big difference between a waiting period and a deadline.

  • (Show?)

    Just to clarify, it is FIRST TIME voters (who have never registered IN Oregon) that have to register by the 14th. People doing changes of address, or simply updating their information, who have registered in Oregon before, have up to the day before (although you will need to go in person to the county elections office if you wait that long) the election.

  • Sunnyside (unverified)

    My mom works at a local printing company that prints the some of the ballots for the state of Oregon - and they were printed a few weeks ago. It is a very complicated, logistical process to get it done and then have them be delivered to be checked, and so on. I don't have a problem with same day voter registration, or those who want to do it a few days before, but those people should expect to go into their County Elections office to cast their ballot, not that the State should bend to their every whim to cater to the lazier folks (and the argument that people aren't aware of the election until less than 20 days before election day is very weak - especially this time around. That's when most of us are voting already!)

  • Rick Attig (unverified)

    For the record, I've never argued, and neither has The Oregonian, that new voters who register in the last days or weeks before an election should get a ballot by mail. Late-registering voters should be allowed to go to their local county clerk's office, though, register and be handed a ballot to fill out and return. A lot of other states manage same-day registration -- Oregon could, too.

    I made the gun comparison because the chief argument against same-day registration over the years has been that Oregon (and other states) somehow need more time, in Oregon's case 20 days, to determine whether someone is eligible to vote and to defend against fraud. Yet it's pretty obvious, and the gun background check is a powerful example, that with today's computerized information, that delay is unnecessary and indefensible.

    Rick Attig, The Oregonian.

  • (Show?)

    Thanks, Rick. Especially now that we require a driver's license or other proof of identity... you should be able to just walk into a County Elections office, show your ID, and register to vote.

  • (Show?)

    Totally agree with Rick. No reason not to allow same day registration.

  • mp97303 (unverified)

    When I moved to Arizona 4 years ago, I registered within 2 weeks of arriving. When I moved back to OR in July, I was registered that same week.

    Why can't people just be responsible for taking care of THEIR business like responsible adults. Quit making everything a conspiracy and tell people to grow up.

  • Hal Sizemore (unverified)

    Maybe ACORN can help clean up Oregon's registration mess?

    Or once Obabm is elected he and ACORN can clean up the whole country's mess.

  • Jefferson Smith (unverified)

    Cheers to the editorial!

    An additional fun fact: In 2004, according to Pew-funded CIRCLE data, Oregon was tied with Kansas for the nation's biggest gap between voter turnout of younger and older voters.

    The best way to address that? According to the data, Same Day voter registration.

    The best voting system in the world might be the combo of (1) vote by mail (makes it cheaper an easier for folks with stable addresses and embeded voting habits), along with (2) same day registration with voting centers (particularly for those who are just building voting habits). This could be a bottle-bill moment for this day-and-age.

  • (Show?)

    I don't agree with some of the rhetoric that Rick uses--there is nothing "anti democratic" about this; do we really know that thousands of people are "disenfranchised" (do we know the numbers, do we know how many simply vote absentee in their old residenes); and MN and WI had high voter turnout BEFORE they instituted same day registration--but there is no practical reason not to move the deadline up.

    You would have to require that voters cast a ballot at the county office. Yes, the ballots take time to print but they always have extras at the office. You would also have to have live links to the statewide registration database.

    We know that same day registration leads to, on average, 5-7% increase in turnout. It is unlikely to do so in Oregon because our turnout is so high already, but there is no good reason to have the date so far out.

  • Jefferson Smith (unverified)

    Mr. Arizonan (mp97303?),

    A belated welcome to Oregon! Glad to hear we're atrracting folks from the sunbelt and not just losing them (perhaps it's the global warming).

    I hear your gripe about people delaying their participation -- I often get unduly frustrated at folks who under-care about the world around them.

    Still, folks say we should run government like a business. Well, accordant to that would be making the levers of government easier to deal with.

    (If you're more of a "voting is a fundamental right" Constitution fetishist, then I'd say we should only restrict that right where it actually serves an important purpose beyond administrative ease.)

    The issue isn't about whether or not people should have responsibility -- folks will need to follow the rules whatever they are, and they'll need to register. People should show responsibility under any system. (Although lord knows many o us -- myself included -- fall short too often).

    The issue is about how our government should behave. We could make a similar argument to yours about whether DMV lines should be shortened: "People should be willing to wait in a longer line! People should be responsible and plan their days better, not lazy or in a hurry."

    I would say that if we can make the interactions with government a bit more hassle-free, then we can make government a bit better. And I suppose making government better is why we're supposed to vote in the first place.

  • (Show?)


    Right on. I am working on national voter registration issues, and the main thrust of our work is to encourage affirmative government action in the field of voter registration.

    Did you know when you become a citizen of this fine nation, with all the paperwork and memorization and bureaucracy, that the INS refuses to include a voter registration card in your citizenship packet?

    Did you know that we have a national change of address (NCOA) database, but that we are only now considering the inclusion of a voter registration form in the "welcome" packet?

    Did you know that there are easily identifiable errors in most statewide registration files (e.g. missing zip codes, missing apartment numbers) that can potentially disenfranchise voters, yet few states are running even the most basic data cleaning / verifying checks on their files?

    We aren't arguing that government should guarantee registration or that registration should be automatic. The citizen has some responsibility.

    But why have we set up a system so that the citizen has ALL the responsibility, and government takes virtually no positive, affirmative action to make registration easier and more portable?

  • rw (unverified)

    Interview on voter intimidation efforts underway in Philadelphia currently and found in other swing states.


  • rw (unverified)

    "Caging" is being documented at high rates in Montana, a HIGHLY tribal, rural state. GOP targeting the highly mobile, unstable, largely Dem population that has moved and not updated current address. In the lower-SES population of certain locales, denizens can move repeatedly, and updating addresses with DMV and other official offices can be costly/time-consuming and futile.

    I can give more than ten examples of such extended family members in my own family in MT who move amongst the kin system domiciles throughout the year. They are being targeted via this legalistic actioning of a rule as an obstacle rather than address of the rule via voter registration facilitation...

    For information on this phenomenon currently being pursued by Republicans and admitted as such by that party:


  • (Show?)

    I know the number of people has to be in the thousands since I personally turned away hundreds of people myself in 2004 while working for Multnomah County Elections. And I was only one worker of dozens at one elections office.

    This isn't just about people who are new to the state. It's about those who turn 18 close to Election Day and don't know they can register early. Or those who haven't voted in some time and don't know their registration has been canceled.

    And yes, it also includes those who are new to the state. You know, there will be people moving to the state between the deadline and Election Day. And since we have our deadline so far out, they'll have to go through the process to get a ballot from their old state and vote on people who won't even be representing them.

    And don't forget about college students - they do have the right to register to vote where they are attending school. Many students arrive in-state for college just before the deadline. With all that's going on with registration, getting moved into dorms/apartments, starting classes, buying books, etc., it's not that difficult to miss the deadline. This is especially true since our colleges start classes shortly before the deadline. When I worked with the New Voters Project, we tried to encourage colleges to make voter registration a part of registering at the school, but coverage was spotty at best.

    Removing the deadline and allowing people to register up through Election Day wouldn't be that much of a hardship. County Elections already takes the voter registration cards. They already hand out ballots to people. It just means they'll be doing this process a little more.

    Here's how it works...

    The counties all have extra ballots printed up. Each set of ballots has an ID code on it that identifies which area that ballot covers (such as a specific precinct). If someone needs a new ballot - such as someone who was previously registered in Oregon and moved to a new address - you go and pull the correct ballot, a secrecy envelope, print up a label that goes on the outside of the outer envelope, and you put it together. The part that takes the longest is the printing of the label. It's as simple as that.

    County elections offices are already doing this, it wouldn't be that hard to expand it - especially if additional official locations can be added as has been advocated for by some state legislators and those of us supporting same day voter registration.

    This process really isn't that hard, and it sure would enable a lot more people the chance to vote.

  • rw (unverified)

    Addendum - listen to the interview for a broadening of your understanding of the specific use of voter disenfranchisement in the current election. Students another targeted group, and misleading mailings, web postings, posters et. al. being found and investigated.

    Voting machine distribution is also an issue as new voter numbers are up, but purchase and allocation of machines did not forsee this...

    Machine: voter is supposed to be 1:175.

  • Kitty C (unverified)

    Sounds just like what ACORN is doing today.

    "It's not 1986 anymore, when the panicked state wrote the long voter registration deadline into the state constitution after the attempted election fraud by the followers of Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh, whose supporters hatched the idea of busing in homeless people to vote. The scheme failed, and here we are, 22 years later, disenfranchising thousands of people who don't realize until it's too late that Oregon has a 20-day cutoff for voter registration."

  • (Show?)

    Kitty C:

    The funniest thing is that in many cases, those homeless people could legally vote there anyway even after the rule change.

    If they were bused in and lived there on the ranch (which is what was planned), they could indeed legally vote there if they had previously been registered to vote. It may surprise people, but a lot of homeless people are registered to vote. All they had to do is update their voter registration, which you can do until polls close on Election Day.

  • rw (unverified)

    The report from Common Cause, link below.

    Jenni, the shame is that lack of knowledge is the key to disenfranchisement based on lies or shaded communications. Not just in advance, but day-of.

    I was actually blocked from voting as a young mother in Tahlequah, OK, as I was ignorant to how things worked. I feel ashamed to say it now. But information was more difficult to access there, and the internet was not ubiquitous, nor available in libraries to those of lower SES. School computer labs were great resources, but I did not learn how to use the Net, believing, instead, what I was told at the polls.


  • (Show?)

    And I left a few out...

    I can't tell you how many people had filled out voter registration cards as part of a registration drive and those cards were never turned into the office. Or they registered at the DMV and those were never turned in either. Or they missed an important part of the form, which invalidated the registration (we had boxes and boxes of these).

    With ballots not going out until after the deadline passes, many people don't realize there is something wrong with their registration until they don't receive a ballot.

  • LT (unverified)

    "Why can't people just be responsible for taking care of THEIR business like responsible adults. "

    As if no one moves into Oregon (or into another county) between Oct. 1 and Nov. voting day.

    I say this as someone who once moved into an apt. on Nov. 1.

  • (Show?)


    Your effort sounds like a really worthwhile one, and I hope you will write a column about it, maybe after the election(?), including information about how to get involved.

    Or if you've done that before, can you post a link?

  • mp97303 (unverified)

    LT wrote:I say this as someone who once moved into an apt. on Nov. 1.

    Well, you still have 6 days left to register. Get crackin'

  • (Show?)

    I can't tell you how many people had filled out voter registration cards as part of a registration drive and those cards were never turned into the office.

    Especially since there were documented cases in Oregon of the RNC funding voter-registration drives in liberal urban centers and then throwing away the forms in 2004.

  • (Show?)


    Yea, we heard a lot about those at the election office.

    Also, with there being a fine this time to those who don't turn in the cards within 5 days, I'm worried about the number of cards that won't get turned in because people held on to them too long after a voter reg drive and don't want to be fined.

  • RW (unverified)

    Paul G: I am an absolute data geek. I love cleaning up data. Promise me that when you get your hands on some of that work to clean up the magnificent informational and empowerment resource we have that is not being stewarded correctly... that you will contact ME!

    What a great piece of work that would be, to be neck deep in cleaning it up and making it work. Some of the fixes for the ills we go on about up here are no more elegant than simply a little attention, a little accountability, some dopey person caring about the resource we have in our hands.

    What a difference this could make in the world, no kidding!

    Erm. Geekily yours, The Data Gnome

  • George Seldes (unverified)

    Wisconsin is one of many states that allows same-day registration, and did at least as far back as 1980.

    The bottom line is this:

    You don't have to register to pay taxes.   Why should you have to register to vote?

    We need to stop thinking of it as the citizen's job to wade through the paperwork barriers and such and start thinking of it as government's job to ensure that every properly qualified elector is given a ballot each and every time there's a public vote, period.

    If the management of a business tried to run corporate elections the way we let government run public ones, the manager would be in jail. The onus should be on government to apply the same dedication to making sure people get a ballot as it does to making sure that taxes are withheld.

  • DE (unverified)

    Not the best analogy seeing as you generally fill out a W-4 in order to start automatic tax witholding. That's pretty close to registering to pay taxes.

  • (Show?)

    If anyone thinks we're not in a crisis situation not just here in Oregon but nationally re. how we handle registration regs and voter files, see this morning's NYTimes piece, States' Actions to Block Voters Appear Illegal. In key states the inept, ill-intentioned, or ill-conceived implementation of HAVA rules has resulted in people being purged from of kept off the voter files faster than we are registering them.

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