Voting 02 (copy)

A small box of stickers sits on the ballot box at the Valley Library on the Oregon State University campus.

Today (Sept. 24) is National Voter Registration Day. Just as you prepare for a new school year in the fall, or check the batteries in your smoke alarms, make sure that your voter registration is up to date! The League of Women Voters joins with other voter advocate groups around the country to remind you.

We consider “one person, one vote” to be fundamental to democracy, and yet, for many people around the world and here in our own country, the right to vote has been a long time coming. In 1789, when our Constitution was first ratified, only white men, age 21 and older, who were property owners could vote. It took nearly 300 years of hard-fought battles to extend voting rights to all citizens over the age of 18. When more citizens vote, our democracy better represents the will of the people.

But before you can cast a vote, you must register to vote. The League of Women Voters was formed in 1920 with the specific purpose of educating women about how to register, be informed, and vote. As the League approaches its 100th anniversary, our work continues to ensure that all eligible Americans are “vote ready” when Election Day comes.

In Oregon, if you are a U.S citizen and at least 16 years old, you can register to vote. Young people are preregistered and will be notified to complete the process when they are about to turn 18. To register, you’ll need to have some form of personal identification. This can be a valid Oregon driver’s license, permit or ID number, the last four digits of your Social Security number, a paycheck stub, utility bill, bank statement, or other government document.

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If you are registering to vote in Oregon for the first time, remember to register at least 21 days before an upcoming election. If you change your name or address, or wish to change your party affiliation, you will need to update your registration. You can update right up to, and even on, Election Day, if you do so in person. Your information must be correct in OCVR, the Oregon Centralized Voter Registration database. Any eligible citizen can register or update registration at www.oregonvotes.org. This is preferred because you can see right away if your registration is correct. Next best is filling out and mailing in, or handing in, a paper voter registration form at your county election clerk’s office. In fact, if your signature is not on file or you have a new signature, you do need to submit that in writing to the county clerk. In Benton County, that’s in the basement of the courthouse and in Linn County in Room 205 of the courthouse.

Also, you can register through the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV). Motor voter registration automatically registers new voters as NAV — a non-affiliated voter. or “non-affiliated," voter.” NAV is not the same as “Independent,” which is a newly recognized political party in Oregon. If you want to vote in a specific party’s primary election, you will have to complete the process by choosing your party affiliation.

When it is time to vote, check out Vote411.org to see what’s on your ballot. Compare candidates and learn about the issues. The League of Women Voters produces nonpartisan voters’ guides, available online.

Celebrate Voter Registration Day! Keep your voter registration updated, be informed, and keep voting.

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Jessica McDonald is president of the League of Women Voters of Corvallis.