SALEM, Ore. — Speaking before the Oregon State Senate Campaign Finance Committee on Wednesday, Governor Kate Brown outlined what she calls her "defending democracy agenda" — a list of policies intended to strengthen voting rights for constituents.
"Truly representative leadership and access to decision-making roles requires meaningful change to the status quo," said Brown. "We can't begin to address the status quo until we address the constitutional issues. Oregonians have time and again proven that they want campaign finance reform. It's our job as state policy makers to find the best way to accomplish it."
Brown's major points included expanding automatic voter registration, mandating paid postage on mail-in ballots, reforming Oregon's campaign finance laws, and increasing transparency on political expenses.
"It's time to make everyone's mailbox a drop-box — at no cost to the voter. And frankly, the stamp is a functional barrier for voters with disabilities or rural voters who may live far from any drop box — not just for those under 40 who think that ink and a stamp are body are options, not voting necessities," Brown said.
According to the Governor, Oregon was the first state to adopt automatic voter registration at the DMV, a development that she praised — however, she said, that system should be expanded to encompass all eligible citizens.
"We have so much to be proud of in Oregon. While other states are rolling back voting rights, Oregon has led the way," Brown said, referring to mail-in ballots and automatic registration.
Pivoting, Brown then addressed what she called the "wild, wild West" of Oregon's campaign finance laws, or lack thereof. Oregon has some of the most permissive campaign finance rules in the nation — allowing practically infinite contributions to political campaigns from individuals, corporations, and PACs with limited transparency to voters.
"'Defending democracy' is not a mantra I developed," Brown said. "It is a mobilizing force for Americans across the country as they see our nation's most sacred institutions threatened."
Brown suggested greater transparency for campaign contributions and expenditures, plus setting caps for those contributions. Brown cited her own recent gubernatorial race against Rep. Knute Buehler in 2018, which was the most expensive campaign in Oregon history.
"It costs more to run for office in Oregon than it does in Washington [D.C.]," Brown said.
The Governor said that she intends to see some of these changes represented in a constitutional amendment that would appear on the ballot in 2020. Constitutional amendments have to be ratified by popular vote.