By SARAH ZIMMERMAN , Associated Press
SALEM, Ore. (AP) — Oregon Gov. Kate Brown on Thursday touted the success of the state's unique automatic voter registration program, pointing to a new report that argues the "Oregon model" could be key to engaging millennial voters nationwide.
The study by the nonprofit Center for American Progress found that voter registration numbers among youths have soared since Oregon switched to an automatic registration model in 2016. The law registers eligible voters when they apply for a driver's license.
More than 390,000 Oregonians were registered under the program in 2017, and half of those voters were under the age of 40.
The report also noted the success of the state's pre-registration program for 16- and 17-year- olds. Nearly a quarter of those who pre-registered and reached voting age before the 2018 election turned out to vote, the study said.
"I tell young people: if 90% of the people who are voting are over the age of 65, then that's who candidates listen to," Brown, a Democrat, tweeted on Thursday. "If we get more young people out to vote, it will absolutely change the issues candidates are focused on."
The report comes as the state considers changing its constitution to lower the voting age to 16, an idea that's expected to be met with stiff opposition.
But the Center for American Progress suggests that the state's current registration system could be a possible solution in engaging millennial voters, who comprise the largest electoral bloc but commonly don't turn out for elections.
If automatic registration were implemented nationwide, the report estimates there could be 22 million newly registered voters in the first year alone, with 7.9 million expected to cast a ballot.
Oregon was the first state in the country to implement automatic voter registration. Fourteen other states and the District of Columbia have since implemented similar laws.
I tell young people: if 90% of the people who are voting are over the age of 65, then that's who candidates listen to. If we get more young people out to vote, it will absolutely change the issues candidates are focused on. #OurVoteOurVoice @GenProgress
— Governor Kate Brown (@OregonGovBrown) February 21, 2019