Democracy in America should be about voters picking their politicians — not politicians picking their voters. By focusing on unsubstantiated rumors of fraud, the proponents of the proposed voter suppression measure recently covered in the Dec. 5 Bulletin (“Oregon measure calls for proof of citizenship to vote”) are pushing outright lies to try to achieve their ultimate aim: making it harder for Oregonians to vote.
This ballot measure is a wolf in sheep’s clothing. These laws — and other similar voter suppression measures being pushed across the country — aren’t designed to prevent fraud. They’re designed to keep people from voting, especially young people, communities of color and the working class.
We are all at risk when our laws are used against us. And make no mistake: Voter suppression laws would affect us all. Anyone who is currently registered to vote in Oregon would need to re-register, in person, with citizenship documents in-hand.
Literally every registered Oregonian would be negatively impacted by this proposed ballot measure. It will not just make it harder for your neighbor to vote. Your right to vote will be harmed by this measure. If it passes, it will limit your access to democracy — for no good reason.
What’s also not being talked about is that these laws will have a disproportionate effect on older Oregonians. One in 5 Americans over the age of 65 doesn’t have a current government-issued photo ID, and many seniors lack reliable transportation.
If there is any doubt about what’s at risk, look no further than the story of Christine Krucki. The 90-year-old Wisconsin resident first voted in 1948 and has voted in every election since, but temporarily, at least, lost her ability to vote in 2011 when her state passed a law similar to the ballot measure proposed in Oregon.
Oregon is both the pioneer and the battleground for inclusive democracy.
We were the first state to enact vote-by-mail in 1998. And in 2015, with Gov. Kate Brown’s leadership, we were the first in the country to pass the Oregon Motor Voter law, automatically registering Oregonians to vote when they get a driver’s license, ID or permit at the DMV.
But our history of leadership has also made us a target for those who would prefer to change the rules of the game to favor some voters over others.
The Bus Project was founded on the basic principle that democracy works better when more eligible Oregonians participate. We register voters all year round, and we believe that money and power shouldn’t outweigh the voice of the people.
That’s why we will not let Oregonians be misled. Voter suppression laws, like the constitutional amendment working its way toward Oregon’s 2018 ballot, are no different than the Jim Crow poll taxes and literacy tests used a century ago to disenfranchise African-Americans.
Over the past few weeks, we have seen growing awareness that voter suppression efforts had a dramatic impact on the 2016 election. In Wisconsin, Florida and North Carolina, deliberate barriers made it harder for seniors, students, low-income people and communities of color to make their voices heard.
The stakes are high and the risks are great. Our right to vote is what defines us — as people, as a state, as a country. We urge Oregonians to look beyond the spin and to stand up for democracy. Your vote is your voice, and we are stronger when all are heard.
— Nikki Fisher lives in Portland and is executive director for The Bus Project.