Oregon House OK's 'Motor Voter' bill

Party-line approval; Brown cheers, GOP dismayed

SALEM, Ore. - The Oregon House on Friday approved in a party-line vote the "Motor Voter" bill that would register all eligible Oregon drivers to vote, much to the delight of new Gov. Kate Brown and Democrat lawmakers and the dismay of House Republicans.

The bill passed 35-24, split on party lines, and now goes to the Senate.

"I commend the House of Representatives for the passage of House Bill 2177, Oregon's Motor Voter bill," Brown -- who proposed the expansion as secretary of state -- said in a statement. "It modernizes how the DMV and the Secretary of State's Office work to register eligible citizens to vote."

The bill passed 35-24, split on party lines, and now goes to the Senate.

"Our goal is to make it as easy as possible for eligible voters to participate in our elections," the governor said. "As secretary of state, passage of the Motor Voter bill was my top priority. Now that House Bill 2177 is moving to the Senate, I hope to have the opportunity to sign this bill into law."

But House Republicans painted an entirely different picture, issuing a news release saying that they :"unanimously chose to protect the privacy and individual freedoms of Oregonians by voting against House Bill 2177, legislation that would grant the Secretary of State the authority to automatically register voters using driver license data provided by the Department of Motor Vehicles."

"In debating the policy of the bill, House Republicans cited privacy and individual freedom concerns, costs to county clerks and IT and security issues," they said.

"House Republicans additionally called for the Legislature to examine other opportunities that would encourage voter registration and civic participation among all Oregonians, including young voters," the statement continued.

Four amendments "to protect Oregonians' personal choices and privacy" were introduced by House Republicans during the bill's work session in the House Rules Committee, but were voted down along party lines. The amendments would have:

  1. Provided an individual the ability to opt-out of automatic voter registration at the DMV
  2. Applied DMV privacy law to records transferred from the DMV to the Secretary of State's Office
  3. Required a task force to study IT project failures and security breaches, as well as inter-agency record transfers, before the base measure could be implemented
  4. Provided an individual the ability to opt-in or out of automatic voter registration at the DMV

A Fiscal Impact report provided by the Legislative Fiscal Office shows that Oregon county clerks, including those in economically distressed counties, will be forced to cover additional work and costs for printing, mailing, and processing of additional ballots, as voters are added to registration records as a result of House Bill 2177, the GOP lawmakers said.

"While I certainly support expanding opportunities and removing barriers to people registering to vote, this bill results in an invasion of privacy at best, and at worst, creates a massive public safety concern," said House Republican Whip Sherrie Sprenger (R-Scio). "The bar for the release of personal records from the DMV is set high, and for good reason. Considering the troublesome history of data breaches and IT failures in Oregon government, including the Secretary of State's Office, I would contend that this is not the way to encourage voter participation."

"The hard times in Josephine County are legendary. Poverty is everywhere and our true unemployment rate is closer to 20 percent," said Deputy House Republican Leader Carl Wilson (R-Grants Pass). "What this bill will allow state government to do is to cost a broke county $7,800 in the first year and $15,000 per year over the next 8 years. That is money we don't have."

"We must exercise great caution before we pass legislation like HB 2177 that automatically registers Oregonians to vote," said Deputy House Republican Whip Jodi Hack (R-Salem). "I am concerned that HB 2177 implies that Oregonians aren't capable of making their own decisions or taking care of one's affairs and that it is up to government to make decisions for them. Oregonians should be offended."

Read more on the bill here:  https://olis.leg.state.or.us/liz/2015R1/Measures/Overview/HB2177

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