Lawmaker Pushes Last-Minute Voter Registration In Oregon

By Chris Lehman (OPB)
March 2, 2017 12:30 a.m.

An Oregon lawmaker wants voters to be able to register right up until one day before an election.

Currently, people who want to cast a ballot have to register at least three weeks in advance.


Portland Democratic Sen. Rod Monroe said shortening the registration deadline will open up elections to more people, especially young adults.

"They tend to be more mobile than older people. They may move from one apartment to another; they may be going to college and move from one dorm room to another," Monroe told the Senate Rules Committee on Wednesday.


According to the Oregon Secretary of State's Office, a registered voter can change their address right up until 8 p.m. on Election Day and still receive a ballot. So, the proposed change would only benefit people who have not previously been a registered Oregon voter.

It also would mean county elections workers would need to do a lot of last-minute verification of documents to verify eligibility, said Derrin Robinson of the Oregon Association of County Clerks.

"We suddenly would have a real messy situation during the most critical time periods right before an election," said Robinson, who also serves as county clerk in Harney County.
The 21-day voter registration deadline dates back to 1986. It was approved by Oregon voters after leaders of the Rajneeshee religious cult in rural central Oregon brought in homeless people to influence local elections.

Adjusting the deadline would require a change in the Oregon Constitution, which is what Monroe's measure would ask voters to do. The Senate Rules Committee did not act on the proposal at its Wednesday meeting.

According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, 14 states allow people to register to vote right up until Election Day.

Many new Oregon voters are now registered automatically when they get a drivers' license, because of the state's automatic voter registration law.