- Associated Press - Wednesday, June 8, 2016

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) - With the Oregon primary in rearview and ballot results soon going into official state record, election officials are now freed up to potentially handle a wave of new registrations under the state’s “motor voter” law after they touch base with another 145,000 Oregonians this week.

On Friday, the state will begin dispersing voter-registration paperwork by mail to residents who applied for or renewed a driver’s license or state ID card during 2014 and 2015 - steps that, if instead were taken this year, would’ve involuntarily added their names to the voter rolls through Oregon’s automatic voter registration system that began Jan. 1. This week’s dispersal marks the second and final phase of the nation’s first “motor voter” law that scooped up nearly 52,000 new voters through April and is being replicated in at least three other states.

“Part of the vision of Oregon Motor Voter, and the authority granted to my office by House Bill 2177, was to take steps to assure that Oregonians who established themselves as eligible for voter registration at the DMV in the two-year window before 2016 could be registered,” Oregon Secretary of State Jeanne Atkins said in a statement Wednesday. “On Friday we take that step.”

But it’s a toss-up how much phase two could boost the “motor voter” numbers.

How these 145,000 unregistered voters feel about politics is unknown - although the November presidential match-up between Republican Donald Trump and Democrat Hillary Clinton could motivate some - and responding by mail could pose a hurdle.

The mail-in system is largely why the motor-voter registrants had such a low turnout during the May 17 presidential primary, which was open to only Democrats and Republicans.

Voters are registered by default as nonaffiliated through the motor vehicle department, and they can’t pick a party until later by mail. Most people, or roughly three quarters, don’t return their forms. Thus, only 8,600 were eligible to cast a Democratic or Republican presidential primary ballot, and even fewer actually did so, making up a tiny sliver of the roughly 1 million partisan ballots that were cast last month.

But party affiliation doesn’t matter in the general election, by which time the voter rolls will have grown even more and when Atkins expects to have a better idea of the law’s impact. As for those 145,000 Oregonians being targeted this week under phase two, they’ll be able to register and pick a party at the same time.

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