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Dispatches from public radio's correspondent at the Oregon Legislature. This is a venue for political and policy coverage of the state government in Salem and its impact on the people of Oregon.

Oregon's Automatic Voter Registration Law Kicks In January First

Chris Lehman
Northwest News Network
Shamus Hannan of the Oregon Secretary of State's office describes how the state's new automatic voter registration law will work.

Oregon elections officials expect to add tens of thousands of new voters to the rolls starting in January. That's when the state's new automatic voter registration law takes effect.

Here's how the new law will work: When you get or renew an Oregon driver’s license or ID, the system will check whether you're registered to vote. If not -- and if you're otherwise eligible -- the state will register you automatically. You'll get a letter in the mail a few days later telling you this. You'll have three weeks to opt out if voting just isn't your thing.

Secretary of State Jeanne Atkins said the goal is to make sure as many people can participate in the democratic process as possible.

"When Election Day comes, when people are the most interested in taking part, that they are prepared and are in the system and can do a vote,” she said.

Atkins expects about 10,000 people a month will be registered using the new automatic system. People who are registered to vote under the new law won't be affiliated with any political party unless they choose to be.

Oregonians will still be able to register to vote using existing methods, including online or by returning a paper form to their county clerk's office. Oregon is the first state in the nation to automatically register people to vote when they obtain a drivers' license or ID.