This week, many lefties in Oregon are touting the success of the state’s mandatory voter registration initiative reaching a milestone and claim that 68,500 new voters have been added to the rolls, increasing democracy on a grand scale. In theory that sounds like excellent news. But, for all the generally loud noise, the claims of “improvement” and increased voter turnout are lacking in a very crucial element - fact.
The Bus Project, a Democratic oriented get out the vote organization, is extolling the virtues of Motor Voter based on the primary voting results. Their press releases have been picked up by national news organizations and the press is including this misleading graphic.
The graphic is false.
It purports to show the great success of Oregon Motor Voter program and claims that automatically-registered voters had good turnout numbers in the May 2016 Oregon primary election. But it is based on several fundamental errors. And it entirely omits the turnout result for 84% of all Automatic registrants–the non-affiliated voters, of whom only 6% turned out to vote in the primary election (compared with 23% of traditionally-registered non-affiliated voters).
The graph seems to say that a higher percentage of Automatic registrants turned out that Traditional registrants. But, in fact, the overall turnout of the Automatic registrants was 18.7%. The overall turnout of all registrants together was 53.7%. That means that the turnout of the Traditional registrants was in excess of 53.7%. So how could that graph be correct? It is not.
First, the graph for “Independent Voters” is wrong. The numbers graphed are only for members of the Independent Party of Oregon, not for non-affiliated voters — who comprise 84% of all Automatic registrants. So the graph entirely omits 84% of all of the Automatic registrants and bases its conclusions on a population of only 16% of the Automatic registrants–the most politically motivated ones (because they bothered to join a party). In fact those 84% of all Automatic registrants had turnout rates of under 10% for every age category other under 60 (and only 13% above that). All of their turnout rates were about 70% lower than those of Traditional non-affiliated registrants.
The obvious deficiencies in the information being heralded as a win indicates something that is an all too common trend in statistical data on mandatory voter registration. We have discussed at length the idea that adding more voters to the rolls simply does not translate into more voters at the polls. In fact, while MVR claims to bolster the rolls, it has only been shown to actually decrease voter turnout. The sad part is that this information is not new. Entire countries have already shown automatic registration has a negative effect on overall voter turnout. Not surprisingly, Hillary Clinton favors universal mandatory voter registration.
As voter rolls swell with people who have no intention of voting, vote fraud will likely follow. Another concerning impact mandatory voter registration is going to have is the disenfranchisement of new voters in closed primary states.
While I believe the intent behind Motor Voter was good, decoupling the act of voter registration from the selection of a political party in a State like Oregon with closed primaries and gerrymandered safe districts could be one of the most undemocratic acts we’ve seen here.
Merely registering everyone who comes through the DMV, assuming the often dysfunctional organizations can handle the additional task (which is far from a given, see post 1, post 2), will not increase voter turnout and will serve only as a detriment to the election process and election integrity in general. As a country we should be closing loopholes that generate fraud, not making more of them.