“We take pride in making voting easier”

By Kate Brown, Governor of Oregon

In my experience, when politicians try to make it harder for their constituents to vote, it means they are scared of being held accountable to their electors. From what we’ve seen in D.C. and across the country this year, there are a lot of politicians scared about their reelection chances in 2020 and they’re taking it out on voters.  

Making voting accessible to all eligible voters should not be a partisan issue. Yet in response to the introduction of the “For the People Act of 2019” (H.R. 1) in the U.S. House, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell described the legislation, which removes obstacles to the ballot box, as a “power grab” for Democrats. The cynical idea that enabling Americans to exercise their right to vote–the cornerstone of our democracy–is a power grab for one party or the other says more about Sen. McConnell than it does about the pro-democracy policies contained in the For the People Act. While Sen. McConnell is a one-man barricade to passing voting rights at the federal level–states have immense power to enact policies to promote fair and free elections.

In Oregon, we take pride in making voting easy. We have spearheaded innovative measures to make the ballot more accessible for voters. We were the first state to have vote-by-mail elections — a cheaper, more secure method that allows voters with geographical constraints an easier way to vote. In 2016 we became the first state to implement automatic voter registration; a giant win for voter accessibility. Since implementing automatic voter registration, Oregon has increased voter turnout more than any other state. 

Importantly, these policies also diversified the electorate by increasing registration and voting among rural voters, minorities, and less wealthy voters; creating a voter base that better reflects Oregon’s population. During the 2018 midterms, more ballots were cast than in any prior midterm election. However we are not complacent, and Oregon will continue to push for ways to make voting easier.  This legislative session, I have pushed for prepaid mail-in ballots that would remove another barrier to voting. Our work is giving power to Oregon voters to hold politicians accountable. An accountability that I–and all politicians should–welcome.  

While we have made it more fair and secure for our citizens to vote in Oregon–and other states have joined Oregon in using vote-by-mail and automatic voter registration–since 2010, 25 states have passed regressive laws to make it harder to vote. Unfortunately and tellingly, nearly all of the states are controlled by Republicans. This is a step backward. The disturbing trend is why I joined the Board of Advisors of Let America Vote.  

Let America Vote was founded in 2017 to fight voter suppression across the United States. Let America Vote both fights back against policies that disenfranchise voters–such as unnecessary voter ID laws, voter roll purges, new and extreme voter registration requirements, and other barriers to voting–and pushes for measures that will make voting more fair and elections more secure. Let America Vote’s driving principle is, when politicians make it harder to vote, they will make it harder for them to get re-elected. That concept should not be a partisan one. I am working with Let America Vote to fight for voting rights at the federal, state, and local level across the country.

All politicians should be working to make voting easier because expanding pro-voter policies is not a power grab for Democrats or Republicans; it is the American people taking power back from politicians.