Dennis Richardson Wants To Use Facebook To Solve A Vexing Voting Problem

Oregon's top elections official will employ social media to track down inactive voters.

(Sam Gehrke)

Oregon Secretary of State Dennis Richardson launched a new pilot program today that uses Facebook to remind inactive voters to update their registrations in time for the November election.

The reminder, a video of Richardson speaking directly to viewers, will be sent out exclusively to Facebook users currently on the elections division's inactive voter list. Richardson's agency will continue searching for those voters until the Oct. 16 registration deadline for the November general election.

"Maximizing voter participation and access while ensuring election integrity has been one of my primary missions since day one," Richardson said in a statement. "Utilizing cutting-edge technologies to empower eligible voters isn't just something we can do—it's something we must do if we're serious about outreach."

The move is consistent with Oregon's track record of encouraging voters to remain active on the voting rolls.

In April 2017, Richardson extended the window for voters to maintain active status from five to ten years after not voting.

This prevented approximately 30,000 Oregon voters from being deemed inactive, and reactivated another 30,000 voters already deemed inactive. For most other states, after five years of not voting, voters are deemed inactive.

In 2016, Oregon was the first state to enact automatic voter registration through the Department of Motor Vehicles. That same year, 186,050, or 66 percent, of new voters were registered through the DMV, and an additional 35,000 people were re-registered after their voting registration had lapsed.

For the May 2018 Primary elections, 87.9% of eligible voters were registered to vote in Oregon.

Many other states do not share Oregon's commitment to increasing voter registration.

In June 2018, in Husted vs A. Philip Randolph Institution, the United States Supreme Court upheld an Ohio law which purged voters from the rolls after only two years of not voting. Voters were sent a postcard after two years of not voting, which they had to respond to in order to stay on the rolls. The decision could impact voters nationwide if other states were to follow suit.

Again, in March, 2018, reports showed that 63,000 people were moved from active to inactive status on Nevada's voter rolls.

Voters can be deemed inactive due to a lack of voter activity, undeliverable election mail, a challenged ballot or a felony conviction. Inactive voters will not receive their ballots in the mail.

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