Oregon Secretary of State Dennis Richardson wants to restore ballot access to some Oregonians whose voter status has been changed to “inactive.”

The Republican announced Tuesday that he’s going to allow voters to be considered “active” for up to 10 years after they last cast a ballot. That’s up from the current five.

Richardson spoke at a state capitol press conference, surrounded by boxes of voter registration forms meant to represent people whose ballot access would be restored. 


Oregon Secretary of State Dennis Richardson spoke surrounded by blank voter registration forms, which were meant to represent inactive voters.

Oregon Secretary of State Dennis Richardson spoke surrounded by blank voter registration forms, which were meant to represent inactive voters.

Chris Lehman/OPB

“This is a historic event,” he said. “We’re excited about being able to provide ballots to 60,000 or more Oregonians who are registered to vote who, without this change, would not have the opportunity.”

Registered voters whose status has been changed to “inactive” can have their ballot access restored by filling out a voter registration form online or at a county clerk’s office.

Richardson said he purposely did not seek a breakdown of the party registration of inactive voters, saying it wasn’t relevant.

An analysis by Oregon elections director Steve Trout provided to OPB shows that Democrats stand to gain more than Republicans from the effort. Thirty-three percent of the current inactive voters are registered as Democrats, compared to 24 percent registered as Republicans. That approximately mirrors the ratio between Democrats and Republicans among active voters. The largest single category of inactive voters that could be affected by Richardson’s policy change would be those who are not affiliated with any party at all.

Some voters are considered “inactive” because they’ve moved out of state and have not canceled their Oregon voter registration. Richardson said the cost of researching the eligibility of inactive voters would be absorbed by his agency’s existing budget.