On Jan. 1, 2016, Oregon’s Motor Voter registration law took effect, making it easier than ever to become a registered voter. The results of this democracy-fueled endeavor seem clear: Voter registration is up. According to the latest available voter statistics, there has been an increase of over 13 percent of registered voters in Oregon since last year. This is good considering between 2014 and 2015, Oregon voter registration dropped by .08 percent.
With Oregon’s population growth hovering between 1 and 2 percent, the increase in voters is representative of formerly unregistered citizens becoming willing participants. Well, the new voters certainly weren’t unwilling because ultimately you need only pay a visit to the DMV and apply for or renew your drivers’ license. The old system included the extra step of filling out a voter registration card. In other words, you had to opt in to be a voter. Now the system is opt out, and the extra step happens when you do not wish to be registered.
If you choose the path of apathy during your “Qualifying Interaction at the DMV,” as the State’s website puts it, you will be registered as an unaffiliated voter. This group is not Democrats or Republicans; just people we hope are willing to choose a president now and again. The concern becomes, if they cannot even be bothered to choose a party, and there are way more than just two, will they even take the time to use their registration and vote? After all, that’s the only way the Motor Voter law will accomplish its mission of improving turnout.
Fortunately we’re not as lazy as we thought. While roughly a third of the new voters wound up registered as Non Affiliated, the majority chose a party in line with their political ideology. That party was most often the Democrats, which saw an increase of over 140,000 members. The Republicans followed with a growth of more than 50,000 members. All other party increases were small enough that they could be accounted for by population growth.
None of this means anyone is actually going to vote in the upcoming election, but it does offer a glimmer of hope. Given that a person can check a box to pick a party, surely they can be counted on to check a box to pick a president.
By Kyle Bunnell