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Voter numbers likely to swell in January

Registering to vote will get a lot easier Jan. 1, and voter registration rolls could swell dramatically in Jackson County.

When the new “motor voter” law takes effect, everyone who applies for a driver’s license or updates their license information will automatically be registered to vote.

“Whether it’s 5,000 or 30,000 new voters, I have no idea,” Jackson County Clerk Chris Walker said, referring to Jackson County rolls.

Next May, as House Bill 2177 continues to be implemented, more voters will be automatically registered as Oregon Department of Motor Vehicles goes through additional driver’s licenses that have been renewed in recent years.

Walker said it's hard to tell what the automatic registration will mean locally.

“Our registration numbers could swell, but it could reduce the voter turnout,” she said. As voters who were not previously registered come onto the rolls, many may not vote. This would mean a higher percentage of registered voters who don’t cast ballots, Walker said.

The county typically has more than 120,000 registered voters in a presidential election year.

Walker said once she gets a better idea of how many new voters have been added, she will likely seek an increase in her budget to pay for more postage and more ballots.

Voters who are automatically registered when they apply for a license can opt out of the registration process within a three-week period. Voters who are automatically registered will not belong to any political party, but they will have the ability to select a party registration.

Other laws that will take effect in January:

  • Paid Sick Leave: Senate Bill 454 — Will help part-time workers who currently have no paid sick time protections. It applies to companies with 10 or more employees.

  • Wage Transparency: House Bill 2007 — Protects employees who inquire about, discuss or disclose information about their wage or the wage of another employee. It allows for wage disclosure among employees and was designed to encourage pay equity.

  • Ban the Box: House Bill 3025 — Prevents employers from asking about an applicant’s criminal history on an initial job application. Criminal histories can be checked on later in the process.

  • Employee Protections for Domestic Workers: Senate Bill 552 — Establishes workplace protections for domestic workers, including overtime pay, periods of rest, paid vacation time.

  • Personal Injury Protection: Senate Bill 411 — Auto insurance consumers will be able to receive up to the full amount of uninsured motorist coverage (and underinsured coverage) if they are injured by an at-fault, uninsured driver. In order to get full coverage, consumers will need to notify their auto insurance company and have their auto policies renewed or reissued effective Jan. 2, 2016.

  • Expanding Access to Birth Control: House Bill 2879 and House Bill 3343 — HB 2879 allows pharmacists to prescribe birth control, reducing the need for women to visit a doctor for contraceptive prescriptions. HB 3343 requires insurers to cover a full year of birth control, reducing gaps in coverage and access.

  • Keeping Guns Out of the Hands of Domestic Abusers: Senate Bill 525 — Aligns Oregon law with the federal Violence Against Women Act to keep firearms away from domestic abusers.

  • Clean Fuels: Senate Bill 324 — Requires a reduction in carbon in transportation fuel by 10 percent over the next 10 years. The law is being phased in beginning in January, with full compliance measures starting in 2018.

  • Protecting College Students from Unfair Fees: House Bill 2832 — Requires all contracts between public universities and third-party financial institutions for disbursement of student aid money to comply with federal consumer protection guidelines; prohibits transaction fees, inactivity fees and revenue-sharing policies.

Reach reporter Damian Mann at 541-776-4476 or dmann@mailtribune.com. Follow him on Twitter at @reporterdm.