Richardson moves to curb 'inactive' voter rolls purge

Says extending to 10 years keeps 1,000s eligible

SALEM, Ore. - Oregon Secretary of State Dennis Richardson took steps Tuesday to reduce the number of voters declared "inactive" and removed from voter roles, said he wants to maximize voter participation and access, while ensuring election integrity.

Richardson said in a news release that he believes that every Oregonian who is eligible to vote should be able to vote.

"A new administrative rule and executive action taken by Secretary Richardson will make it easier for voters to participate in the democratic process and will protect or restore the voting rights of more than 60,000 Oregonians who would otherwise be classified as “inactive” and not be mailed a ballot," the announcement said. 

“Every Oregonian who is eligible to vote should be able to vote,” Richardson told reporters at the Capitol’s press conference room.

“This change will protect or restore the voting rights of Oregonians serving our country on military deployments, college students, and voters frustrated with the political system,” he said.

Each election, tens of thousands of Oregonians are not sent ballots because their voter registrations were moved to “inactive” status when they did not vote or update their registration information for five years.

There are a variety of reasons why a voter might not vote for an extended period of time, including military deployment, out-of-state college, or dissatisfaction with the choices of political candidates.

Richardson said it's estimated that cross-checking DMV and Elections Division records will reactivate more than 30,000 additional Oregonians who were previously moved to inactive status. 

He said prior secretaries of state have interpreted language in ORS 247.013(6)(a) and (7) as requiring voters to be moved to “inactive” status after five years of voting inactivity. However, the statutory language states that “inactive” status will come after “a period of not less than five years.”

Since the official policy of the state of Oregon is to maximize voting rights, Richardson said he will honor that legacy by extending the time before voters are moved to inactive status from five years to 10 years. That will protect more than 30,000 Oregonians who otherwise would have been moved to “inactive” status this year.

Altogether, these actions will protect or restore voting rights for more than 60,000 Oregonians, the secretary of state said.

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