December 26, 2002

Contact: John Lindback

Effective January 1: Mail registrants will be asked to provide ID

Oregonians will for the first time feel the impact of federal election reform when new voter identification requirements take effect on January 1, 2003, for anyone who registers to vote through the mail. Currently about 50 percent of Oregon voters register to vote through the mail.

A copy of identification will be requested of anyone who is registering to vote for the first time in any Oregon county (including anyone who moves from one Oregon county to another) and who mails their card to a county or state elections office.  Anyone who registers in person at an elections office, or at a voter registration drive, will not be asked to provide the ID.

Sufficient identification includes a copy of a current and valid photo identification, such as a driver's license, or a copy of a paycheck stub, utility bill, bank statement or other government document showing the registrant's name and address.

The Help America Vote Act was adopted by Congress and signed by President Bush this past Fall. In addition to the voter identification provisions, the legislation also includes provisions for phasing out punch card voting systems, new voting machines for voters with disabilities and statewide, centralized voter registration systems.

The voter identification provisions in the new federal law may cause some voter confusion because they apply only to federal elections - those elections where candidates for federal office are on the ballot. That would include races for U.S. Congress, U.S. Senate and President.  Anyone who registers through the mail after January 1 and fails to provide the identification will still be eligible to vote in state and local elections because state law does not require such identification.  Oregon voters already sign an oath on the state voter registration card pledging that they are truthful in their registration. And they are warned that violation of the oath subjects them to a conviction, a fine of up to $100,000 and or jail time of up to five years.

A new version of the Oregon voter registration card that includes information about the federal identification requirements is now available online at the Secretary of State's website.  The website address is: http://www.sos.state.or.us/elections/other.info/vreg.htm

New voter registration cards will be printed and made available statewide as soon as possible.  In the meantime, the old voter registration card will still be accepted at county elections offices. Voters who use the old card and are subject to the new federal ID law can expect to receive a follow-up letter asking them to furnish the copy of their identification through the mail, by fax or go to a county elections office and show the ID.

The next stages of federal elections reform to impact voters are expected to occur in phases during the next five years. They include:

  • A phase-out of punch card voting in three of Oregon's largest counties, Lane, Washington and Clackamas counties. Together, they comprise about 1/3 of the Oregon electorate.
  • A phase-in of new voting equipment for voters with disabilities that will enable them to cast ballots in privacy.
  • An increase and improvement in voter education, election worker training and redesign of voter materials designed to make Oregon's vote-by-mail system as voter-friendly as possible.
  • Implementation of a centralized, statewide voter registration system.
The federal government is expected to provide almost all of the funding for the new projects, though Congress has appropriated no money so far.

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Elections Division, Oregon Secretary of State • 136 State Capitol • Salem, OR 97310-0722