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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 Lawmaker Wants Voters To Be Able To Register One Day Before Election

Kevin Mooney
Northwest News Network
An Oregon state senator wants voters to be able to register right up until one day before an election.

Right now people who want to cast a ballot in Oregon have to register at least three weeks in advance. But a state senator wants voters to be able to register right up until one day before an election.

Portland Democrat Rod Monroe said shortening the registration deadline will open up elections to more people, especially young adult.

"They tend to be more mobile than older people,” Monroe told the Senate Rules Committee Wednesday. “They may move from one apartment to another, they may be going to college and move from one dorm room to another.”

According to the Oregon secretary of state's office, a registered voter can change their address right up until 8 p.m. on Election Day and still receive a ballot. So the proposed change would only benefit people who have not previously been a registered Oregon voter.

That will mean county elections workers will need to do a lot of last-minute verification of documents to verify eligibility, said Derrin Robinson of the Oregon Association of County Clerks.

"We suddenly would have a real messy situation during the most critical time periods right before an election," said Robinson, who also serves as the County Clerk in Harney County.

The 21-day voter registration deadline dates back to 1986. It was approved by Oregon voters after leaders of a religious cult in a rural central Oregon community bussed in homeless people in a last-minute attempt to influence local elections.

Adjusting the deadline would require a change in the Oregon Constitution, which is what Monroe's measure would ask voters to do. The Senate Rules Committee did not act on the proposal at its Wednesday meeting.

According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, 14 states allow people to register to vote right up until the day of the election. Many new Oregon voters are now registered automatically when they get a drivers' license, because of the state's Automatic Voter Registration law.