Oregon voter rolls are about to get a lot bigger. Starting in January, everyone who applies for or renews a driver's license will be automatically registered to vote, if they aren't already. Oregon Secretary of State Jeanne Atkins says unless they send back the opt out card in three weeks, these drivers will be valid, non-affiliated voters. Those voters, like any other registered voter, can then change their party from "non-affiliated" to one of the state's three major parties, or one of its many minor parties.
Atkins said current estimates are that about 10,000 people a month will be getting sent voter registration cards once motor-voter registration begins. She says most of the names and addresses will be made available to the public, including to political parties, which may want to try to get them to register.
"There are programs that people can sign up for to protect their records. Some people won't come to us at all because they're under a protective order that they've filed with the Department of Motor Vehicles to protect their address. So with those protections in mind, generally though, voter registration is a public document, so everyone will have access to that basic information."
It's unclear how these newly registered voters will choose to register with a political party — or vote at all.
One immediate impact of the motor voter law will be on Oregon's newest major party, the Independent Party of Oregon. For that organization to maintain its major party status, it will need 5 percent of registered voters to continue to identify as Independent Party voters. The influx of new non-affiliated voters adds an additional challenge to the numbers game.
The new system of automatic voter registration begins Jan. 1.