Note: This post has been updated since its original posting to correct a few outdated figures.
The need for voter registration is constant, especially in Oregon. With our vote-by-mail system, the people least likely to be registered to vote (young people, low-income people) are the ones most likely to get knocked off the rolls each year if they change addresses or miss an election.
In 2008, vast voter registration efforts by the Obama campaign as well as local groups resulted in a surge of voters in Oregon. The Obama wave, as well as this registration increase, carried several state legislators in swing districts to victory – Brent Barton, Suzanne Van Orman, Nick Kahl, Greg Matthews, Judy Steigler.
On election day in 2008, there were 100,000 more Democratic voters on the rolls than on election day in 2004, a dramatic number in a state with just over 2 million registered voters.
Today, overall voter registration is down by 119,325 voters from the peak in November 2008. That’s like losing a voter roughly every 13 minutes, nearly five every hour, and 113 each day. These are troubling numbers.
Voter registration is the most important activity we can do to ensure we have an engaged, representative electorate weighing in on issues and leaders.
There is no shortage of people to register. Oregon has more than half a million unregistered but eligible folks under 40. In 2010, almost half of folks under 40 in Multnomah County were not registered to vote.
Many (most) of these people will not get themselves registered; in fact, most don’t even know they need to register each time they move to a new address. If someone doesn’t ask them to register, they will not be able vote.
Young people who are registered turn out at about 75% in presidential election years. Young people who are not registered turn out at… 0%. We need those voters.