Oregon Gov. Ted Kulongoski signed HB 2910, sponsored by Rep. Peter Buckley, which will allow 17-year-olds to advance-register to vote in order to encourage more civic engagement among the next generation of voters. The mandate expands a previous measure that allowed 17-year-olds who would turn 18 by an election date to register to vote after the 60th day prior to Election Day. The bill will remove the 60-day window period and allow all 17-year-olds to pre-register and automatically be eligable to vote once they turn 18. The bill, lobbied heavily by the Oregon Bus Project, sailed through the Oregon Assembly with only one opponent.
Although the legislation encourages the next generation of voters to play a greater role in the electoral process, it does not ensure a system of universal voter registration among youth"s that will soon join the voting eligible population. The next step would be to extend the existing motor voter program to give 16-year-olds the opportunity to register to vote when they obtain a learner"s permit. This would encourage even greater numbers of youth to play a more active role in the political process. Similar legislation is pending in Maryland, Rhode Island and South Carolina. Although the legislation does not permit pre-registration at 16, it is a crucial stepping-stone in the right direction. Oregon will join two other states, Florida and Hawaii, which allow minors to pre-register to vote. For more information, see FairVote's 100% Voter Registration project page.