Oregon-Style Voting Makes Ballot Box More Accessible to Working Families, Students and Americans with Disabilities
Washington, D.C. – Oregon’s U.S. Senators Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley, and Representatives Earl Blumenauer, Suzanne Bonamici, Peter DeFazio and Kurt Schrader, introduced their bill to expand Oregon-style vote-by-mail nationwide and knock down the mounting obstacles that voters across the country are facing, just to cast their ballots.
“This administration is fixated with making it harder for Americans to vote,” Wyden said. “And when regular Americans can’t vote, lobbyists, special interests and everyone else who wants to profit off of the government win. Taking back our government from the special interests starts with making sure every eligible American who wants to vote is able to make their voice heard at the ballot box. Passing Oregon-style vote-by-mail is how we make that happen.”
“We’re in the middle of a national civics lesson. We should be fighting to amplify the voices of all Americans, not stifle them with laws that make voting harder,” Blumenauer said. “With access to the ballot box under attack across the country, Oregon offers the best model to increase voter participation and make sure everyone can take part in our democracy. It’s time for the rest of the country to catch up.”
“In our democratic republic, there is no right more sacred or fundamental than the right to vote,” said Merkley. “In Oregon, we’ve seen firsthand that vote-by-mail ensures a secure and accessible voting system that makes it easy for voters to participate. As a nation, we should be fighting for voter empowerment, not voter suppression. Expanding Oregon’s vote-by-mail system nationwide is a no-brainer.”
“Voting is essential to our democracy, and we must do everything possible to increase access to and participation in the voting process,” said Rep. Bonamici. “Oregon is leading the nation with our vote-by-mail system. Across the country too many people face long lines – or deliberate obstruction and voter suppression – as they try to cast their ballots. I’m proud to join my Oregon colleagues in proposing a tested and secure solution that makes voting more accessible across the country.”
“As an elected official, I believe it is my responsibility to fight for legislation that moves our democracy forward,” said Rep. DeFazio. “This bill will help to fulfill that goal. Today, there are far too many obstacles—whether bureaucratic or intentional—blocking people from voting across the nation. We must make it easier, not harder, for people to cast their ballots, and I’m proud that Oregon has led the way in this important issue.”
“As Oregonians, we take pride in our tradition of strong civic engagement which includes some of the highest voter turnout in the country. While we have a history of taking an active, vocal role in our local communities and leading the charge on progressive, social issues, vote-by-mail is absolutely a contributing factor to our significant voter turnout election after election,” said Rep. Schrader. “Elsewhere in the country, we’ve unfortunately seen attempts to suppress voter turnout grow. And while political rhetoric seems to get more and more polarized with each day, my hope is that everyone is realizing the severe importance of voting in every single election. By implementing a vote-by-mail option nationally, our bill will make it easier for citizens in every state to vote, increasing civic engagement. This is what democracy is all about, folks!”
While Attorney General Jeff Sessions is investigating fictional claims of large-scale voter-fraud, at least five states have already enacted laws this year to make voting more difficult, according to the Brennan Center for Justice. That comes on top of cuts to polling places and hours-long lines in last year’s election. Since 2010, at least 20 states have passed laws restricting voting.
The American Association of People with Disabilities, American Civil Liberties Union, Common Cause and National Association of Letter Carriers announced their support for Wyden’s legislation.
The Vote By Mail Act requires every state to provide registered voters the opportunity to vote by mail. All registered voters will receive ballots in the mail weeks before Election Day, allowing them to carefully research candidates well ahead of time. By providing the opportunity to cast ballots in the mail, voters will be able to avoid long lines at polling stations and won’t have to take time off work to exercise their constitutionally guaranteed right to vote. The federal government, through the Unites States Postal Service, will assist states with the costs of mailing ballots to registered voters. The bill text is available here. A one-page summary is available here.
Building on Oregon’s automatic voter registration program, this bill also improves voter registration to reduce the burden on busy working Americans. The bill requires states to ensure that each citizen who provides identifying information to their state motor vehicle authority is automatically registered to vote.
Oregon became the country’s first all-vote-by-mail state in 2000, and since then, has consistently ranked among the states with highest voter-turnout in the nation. Oregon voting rates are especially high among young voters and in midterm elections, when turnout traditionally lags. Oregon’s vote by mail law has deterred voter fraud by implementing security measures such as a signature authentication system. Oregon’s system also prevents potential fraud by centralizing ballot processing in the county clerk’s office, rather than at various polling sites.
Vote by mail also has been shown to reduce Election Day costs by eliminating the need to transport equipment to polling stations and to hire and train poll workers.