Opposition Report: Attacks on Voter Access

Far-right special interests are doing all they can to keep newly registered voters for turning out this election — even if it means outright lying.

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It’s an election year, and that means voting is once again a hot button issue. This year is a little different though: With Oregon’s groundbreaking New Motor Voter (NMV) law going into effect, we’re getting closer than ever to our goal of getting a ballot in every eligible voter’s hands. With the phase-in of NMV, that makes the conversation surrounding voters’ rights more passionate than ever — but not always in a good way. While most people agree that significant change is only possible when voters are able to participate, opponents of expanding voter access are looking for any excuse to paint NMV as a failure.
In an attack on expanded voter access, special interests are saying we can’t afford to allow all eligible voters to participate. You read that right — they’re saying democracy costs too much money. That claim is absurd, especially since democracy should be the one thing that everyone would be willing to pay for. The claim just gets even more outlandish, because the democracy opponents don’t seem to have any idea of how much it’ll actually cost. This is leading to wildly divergent claims of how apocalyptic it will be to help more Oregonians participate in democracy. Failed Oregon House candidate turned corporate stooge Anne Marie Gurney claimed that it would cost Lane County $8 million to implement NMV. The closest thing we can find to a citation for that number is the cost for the entire state of Maryland to adopt the law. (According to the Secretary of State’s website, Gurney is off by about… $7.8 million).

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Bill Post, on the other hand, seemed outraged that any money goes toward increasing voter turnout. Unlike Gurney’s $8 million price tag, Post is focused on something much smaller: $110,000 spent statewide to remind Oregonians to vote. To put that amount in perspective, that’s less than half of what gubernatorial candidate Bud Pierce has donated to himself.

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As bad as Post’s stance on voter access is, at least he’s relatively honest — and the alternative is a lot more concerning. Take The Oregonian Editorial Board’s latest piece on NMV. Rather than honestly attack the law’s intention, they instead choose to frame it as another form of voter disenfranchisement. This can have a huge impact: Hundreds of thousands of Oregonians will be added to the voter rolls by the time primary ballots are sent out — and this piece would have been the perfect venue to encourage voter participation in the months leading up to the next election. Disappointingly, The O skips the opportunity to encourage these new voters to make sure their registration is in order so they can participate in May — and instead paints the groundbreaking law (and other meaningful steps toward ending disenfranchisement) as failures without openly advocating for low voter turnout.

We agree that there’s still work left to do in order to fully bring down barriers to voting. But we also know that there’s no silver bullet solution. That’s why proponents of expanding voter access are still working to make change through proposals like prepaid postage for ballots.

Prepaid postage helps out those most often affected by voter disenfranchisement: people who can’t just pick up a book of stamps at the grocery store because they live in food deserts, people who can’t get time off work during hours when stamp vendors are open, people who have medical difficulties preventing them from leaving their homes, and, yes, people who can’t afford the $10 it costs to buy a book of stamps. But The Oregonian wrote off prepaid postage as a “meaningless gesture” and a “cosmetic fix.” If The Oregonian Editorial Board thinks expanding voter access to our most vulnerable citizens, those for whom buying stamps is a considerable barrier, then what change is enough for them?

The Takeaway: Passing New Motor Voter was a big win for democracy, and it’s made it a lot harder for special interests to block voter engagement. But now that they can’t put a roadblock between Oregonians and their registration cards, keeping those newly registered voters from turning out is priority number one for the right-wing.

What You Can Do: Show your support for practicing democracy! Share this post and make sure your friends and family know why voting this year matters.

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