EUGENE, Ore. (CN) – It just got easier to vote in Oregon, with new laws being signed Friday making it free to mail in ballots, requiring campaign ads to say who paid for them and making political organizations identify their largest donors.
Oregon already has mail-in ballots that make waiting for hours to vote at polling stations a thing of the past. Senate Bill 861 requires the state to pay for the stamps on those ballots. And the state’s U.S. senators want to make that a national trend.
“It's time to make everyone's mailbox a drop box – at no cost to the voter," Gov. Kate Brown said in a statement announcing Friday’s bill signing. "The stamp is a functional barrier for voters with disabilities and rural voters who may live far from a drop box.”
Under House Bill 2983, groups that spend large amounts on politics will have to report the identities of donors who give them more than $10,000. Donations that can’t be used for political speech, like those from foundations, will be excluded.
The new law also reduces from $750 to $250 the threshold to trigger state reporting requirements for money spent on ads for or against a candidate that are not made in coordination with the candidate. And it expands the time period surrounding elections when ads and other communications are deemed “electioneering.”
House Bill 2716 requires state lawmakers to say who paid for their campaign ads. It prohibits the use of anonymous donations of more than $1,000 for “communication in support of or opposition to” a candidate or measure. Though it was signed Friday by the governor, Oregon voters must first approve it in the November 2020 election and if they do, it will take effect December 2020. Skywriting, along with lawn signs and campaign clothing, are exempt.
The state’s leaders in the U.S. House and Senate called Friday for similar changes at the national level.
U.S. Representative Suzanne Bonamici co-sponsored the For the People Act, which aims to make Oregon standards like automatic voter registration, online registration and vote-by-mail the law of the land. The resolution passed in the House but has not yet been introduced in the Senate, as Bonamici noted in a statement.
"To have a democracy that is truly of, by, and for the people, every voter should be able to cast a ballot,” Bonamici said. “The Senate should take up the bill immediately to protect our democracy and restore confidence in our elections.”
And U.S. Senator Ron Wyden, who introduced the Vote By Mail Act, said Oregon is leading the way in democratic reform.
"While other states are striving to make it harder for their residents to vote, Oregon's made it clear that securing and expanding access to the ballot box is top priority," Wyden said in a statement.
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