May 25, 2017

Wyden, Blumenauer Introduce Vote-by-Mail Bill to Fight Growing Tide of Voter Suppression

Oregon-Style Voting Makes Ballot Box More Accessible to Working Families, Students and Americans with Disabilities Endorsed by Association of People with Disabilities, American Civil Liberties Union, Common Cause and National Association of Letter Carriers

Washington, D.C. – Senator Ron Wyden and Representative Earl Blumenauer, Oregon Democrats, today introduced their bill to expand Oregon-style vote-by-mail nationwide and knock down the mounting obstacles that voters across the country are facing, just to cast their ballots.

“This administration is fixated with making it harder for Americans to vote,” Wyden said. “And when regular Americans can’t vote, lobbyists, special interests everyone else who wants to profit off of the government win. Taking back our government from the special interests starts with making sure every eligible American who wants to vote is able to make their voice heard at the ballot box. Passing Oregon-style vote-by-mail is how we make that happen.”

“We’re in the middle of a national civics lesson. We should be fighting to amplify the voices of all Americans, not stifle them with laws that make voting harder,” Blumenauer said. “With access to the ballot box under attack across the country, Oregon offers the best model to increase voter participation and make sure everyone can take part in our democracy. It’s time for the rest of the country to catch up.”

The bill is co-sponsored by: Sen. Jeff Merkley, D-Ore., Sen. Ed Markey, D-Mass., Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I., Sen. Kristen Gillibrand, D-N.Y., Sen. Tom Udall, D-N.M., Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., Sen. Al Franken, D-Minn, Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., Sen. Chris Van Hollen, D-Md., Sen. Tammy Baldwin, D-Wisc., Sen. Bernie Sanders, D-Vt., Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., Sen. Martin Heinrich, D-N.M., Sen. Tom Carper, D-Del., Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., Sen. Chris Coons, D-Del., Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J. and Sen. Brian Schatz, D-Hawaii.

The bill is co-sponsored by Representative David Cicilline (D-R.I.) and 26 other members in the House.

While Attorney General Jeff Sessions is investigating fictional claims of large-scale voter-fraud, at least five states have already enacted laws this year to make voting more difficult, according to the Brennan Center for Justice. That comes on top of cuts to polling places and hours-long lines in last year’s election. Since 2010, at least 20 states have passed laws restricting voting.

The American Association of People with Disabilities, American Civil Liberties Union, Common Cause and National Association of Letter Carriers announced their support for Wyden’s legislation.

The Vote By Mail Act requires every state to provide registered voters the opportunity to vote by mail. All registered voters will receive ballots in the mail weeks before Election Day, allowing them to carefully research candidates well ahead of time. By providing the opportunity to cast ballots in the mail, voters will be able to avoid long lines at polling stations and won’t have to take time off work to exercise their constitutionally guaranteed right to vote. The federal government, through the Unites States Postal Service, will assist states with the costs of mailing ballots to registered voters. The bill text is available here. A one-page summary is available here.

Building on Oregon’s automatic voter registration program, this bill also improves voter registration to reduce the burden on busy working Americans. The bill requires states to ensure that each citizen who provides identifying information to their state motor vehicle authority is automatically registered to vote.

American Association of People with Disabilities President Helena Berger: “As AAPD continues to coordinate the REV UP Campaign to get more people with disabilities registered to vote and engaged in the political process we are grateful to have an ally like Senator Wyden who is committed to upholding and protecting the right to vote for all citizens. The Senator's vote by mail amendment to HAVA will help increase the political participation of not only people with disabilities, but all Americans."

American Civil Liberties Union Voting Rights Project Director Dale Ho: "The ACLU is proud to support the Vote By Mail Act because it would give all voters the option to vote by mail regardless of where they live.  This is critically important now that Americans can no longer count on the Voting Rights Act’s full protections in light of the troubling voter suppression measures across the country.  We look forward to seeing how the bill’s provisional automatic voter registration component develops in harmony with civil liberties principles.”


Common Cause Director of Voting and Elections Allegra Chapman: “At a time when some states are trying to make it more difficult for Americans to vote, Senator Wyden’s Vote By Mail Act is a step in the right direction of providing more Americans with another path to exercise their right to vote, and we hope Congress will consider it as part of a voting reform package. States like Oregon—with vote-by-mail and in-person voting—and Colorado—with both vote-by-mail and in-person voting at vote centers with the benefit of early voting and same-day registration—offer voters the kind of access needed today.”


National Association of Letter Carriers President Fredric Rolando: "NALC once again proudly supports this effort to expand accessibility for citizens to participate in our democracy. As the public face of the most trusted government agency, letter carriers stand ready and eager to help make voting more convenient for millions of Americans.”




Oregon became the country’s first all-vote-by-mail state in 2000, and since then, has consistently ranked among the states with highest voter-turnout in the nation. Oregon voting rates are especially high among young voters and in midterm elections, when turnout traditionally lags. Oregon’s vote by mail law has deterred voter fraud by implementing security measures such as a signature authentication system. Oregon’s system also prevents potential fraud by centralizing ballot processing in the county clerk’s office, rather than at various polling sites.

Vote by mail also has been shown to reduce Election Day costs by eliminating the need to transport equipment to polling stations and to hire and train poll workers.


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