tv Gov. Kate Brown on Voter Participation CSPAN February 21, 2019 10:08am-11:01am EST
laws that discriminate against native americans and other communities, systematic voter purges from gerrymandering districts. to make matters even worse. donald trump continues to spew baseless lies about voter fraud while failing to prioritize securing our elections against foreign interference. at the same time, the department of justice has made clear that it can no longer be relied upon to protect the right of eligible americans to participate in our democratic process. you have to look no further than today's headlines about north carolina's month congressional district. those headlines are mindnumbing and a reminder for all of us about the work that needs to be done on election. fortunately in the absence of leadership at the national level, progressive champions at
the state and local levels are now standing on the front lines of efforts to preserve and expand voting rights in america. under governor kate brown, our special guest for this morning, oregon has helped ensure that young people are seamlessly integrated into the electric by implementing such -- electorate by implementing such reforms as preregistration for 60 1017-year-olds. today at the -- 16-year-old and 17 years old. today, we are pleased to report the successes of oregon's progress. generation progress is also excited to launch our voice, our vote, is story bank that will document the real and significant challenges to many young people face when trying to vote. we hope that our initiatives
will help spur lawmakers across the country to follow the examples of leaders such as governor brown. we are so grateful that you could join us here today. i can't wait to talk to you more about your edible work and the influence that you really are having on the national conversation. let's just jump right in. oregonour leadership, has established itself as a national leader for expanding voter access and consistently ranks as having one of the highest voter participation rates in the country. one need look no further than the 2018 midterm election where 60% of oregonians turned out to vote. to protect in perspective, via precipitation -- voter participation nationally was at 40%. what is the secret off? -- secret sauce? what is oregon's secret to
having such high engagement? is it policies that make casting ballots more accessible, or is it just that oregonians are particularly enthusiastic about the electoral process, or is it that candidates such as yourself are on the ballot? what is the secret sauce that makes oregon such a leader? gov. brown: i have to start with my story. this is a very personal issue for me. when i first ran for the legislature, i ended up running against a three term incumbent. i was outspent, 2-1. my team and i worked really hard. we knocked on doors multiple times. the reason why i share this story is evidently won that race by seven votes. 20 plus years later, i still have people come up to me and brown, i was your seventh vote, i was the reason that you won.
everyone who voted for me and worked on my campaign believes they were the reason that i won, and they absolutely were. for me, it's personal. i am living proof that every voice matters and that every vote needs to be counted. we have made steady progress ensuring that every eligible voter has access to the right to vote. it didn't start with me. i have really strong readership prior to me. former secretaries of state led the effort to ensure that we can vote at home, otherwise known as vote by mail. that is extremely convenient and accessible for oregonians, particularly for young people with busy lives. when i became secretary of state, we moved forward on online voter registration. it was with that platform that we used to develop our automatic water registration system. with the first state in the
country to do automatic voter legislation. we use the nudge principle. that means you are automatically registered unless you take action to opt out. we now have 90% of oregonians are registered to vote in my state. hurdleation is the first which we have worked very hard to remove. the other is collaborative efforts to drive voter turnout. >> talk to me a little about the nudge principle and opt out. what are the arguments for that and against it? will you be having conversations with other governors over this the national governors association meeting talking about registration and the ox out options -- opt out options? gov. brown: with all the data around the nudge principle and that is, you have to make it easy for people. that is exactly what we did.
in oregon, your data gets transferred from the department of motor vehicles to the secretary of state's office. you get sent a letter saying you will be automatically registered to vote unless you sign this stamped addressed letter and sent it back. that has tremendously increased numbers. it has also created a paradigm shift. the time and energy that is spent around voter registration can now be shifted to engagement, education and empowerment. if you think about the millions of dollars and thousands of hours in the time and energy voters, the oregon student associations bent on , that is nowation being used for education and empowerment. i'm certainly going to be talking to governors about it.
i'm hoping that governor cuomo can use oregon as a model not only in terms of the automatic registration, but also vote at home so that new yorkers can literally get a balance in a post office and pick it up, so out their ballot, spend time with family filling it out at the kitchen table and stick it back in the post office and send it back. it's pretty simple, it's pretty effective, it's very secure. i want to talk a little bit about that and shift gears and talk about young voters. every election year we hear that drama music at the beginning as you are about six weeks away from election. you hear about young voters concerned about their low turnout numbers, and in his past your loan, with some report
after report on potential youth voter turnout, and it was going to be low. and it was going to in p progresses in the 2018 elections progressives in the 2018 elections. you have been a national leader when it comes to implementing policies that really target and help young voters vote. according to our report out today, oregon has been registered more than 195,000, close to 200,000 16-year-olds and 17-year-olds. that is an impressive number. i happen to have two xt murals at home. i'm looking -- 16-year-olds at home. i'm looking to ensure that voting becomes a part of their civic responsibility. can you walk us through these policies, what they look like on the ground, how they are being
implemented and what impact they have on increasing voter engagement around young people, and how you keep that engagement up from registration through to actual voting? gov. brown: i think there are a couple of pieces, and i just have to share one number. that is 200,000 more people under the age of 50 voted in 2018, versus 2014. even though the turnout rate of registered voters under 50 state the same. simply by making it more accessible and more can you through redirect is -- preregistration and automatic voter registration, we make it more convenient, more accessible for more voters. ishink what is really key the paradigm shift around education and empowerment and engagement. organizations like our bus project, the oregon student association, are really working to meet voters where they are at, particularly young voters. that means on doorsteps, through
social media and through fun and engaging activities. what i love about the bus project is they are not focused just on voter engagement and education. they are also focused on public service. whether it's taking a bus load of young people to a community and cleaning up trash or working with a community to address one of the community needs, it is really getting people engaged in public service. time that to education and engagement around voter access. the other pieces -- peace is around policies. we know that when we have more younger voters engaged in voting, we know it changes the type of public policies we can it progress on. in the last couple of years, we have been able to move forward on such progressive policies
with the minimum wage, passing the nations first caloal to clean, and passing the oregon promise program which is essentially tuition free community college for oregon high school graduates. we know that when they get younger voters engaged, the level of public policy looks different and more reflective of those voters needs. we're making sure we are connecting the dots for voters, particularly under the age of 30. avr intohe signed the law in march 2015, oregon has become a quintessential model for other states. those who are interested in implementing this game changing policy. program worksavr solely out of the department of
motor vehicles, but you recently expanded to include other agencies. importantanding avr and what other states these would you like to see included in the program? gov. brown: i just want to talk for a minute about why we saw avr as being so instrumental, not only in engaging more voters that as very much a government efficiency, security and cost effective measure. every single year, we literally had 125,000 postcards from our dmv going toward our county election clerks. those clerks had to hand enter every single one of them. as you probably get a sense, when your hand entering data that people very sloppily sometimes -- i won't speak for others handwriting, but certainly mine -- have a hard time reading.
moving to why we are other agencies in addition to the dmv is that what i know is that particularly young people, a lot of them aren't getting drivers licenses. this is an opportunity to engage them in a different way. we're looking at our university systems and our department of veterans affairs to really engage voters where they are at and ensure that it is a seamless system for them to be able to participate. >> that is fantastic. that is certainly one of the criticisms of these programs is that it limits who actually can register depending on who goes there. are there others in addition to the departments of veterans affairs or other places that aren't car bound as we try to get people off of driving, people with disabilities, the elderly sometimes are hampered by having registration at the
department of motor vehicles. are there other agencies or other challenges you are can every as you look to implement this? gov. brown: absolutely. one obvious of course is the department of human services where we engage a lot of our vulnerable citizens. i think one of the challenges why the system worked in oregon that, is the issue around citizenship. obviously, we want to make sure we are serving oregonians for a particular program that they are eligible for, and we don't want the citizenship question to be driving people away from services that they may need. that is why dmv was appropriate that we get started because we were already collecting citizenship data and confirming citizenship there. that is one of the challenges in terms of systems with a system
like oregon that is an opt out system. obviously, if you are doing opt in, that contains the dynamic around how and where you serve people. you talked about vote by mail. i want to drill that a little bit more. there has been lots of interest in voting by mail in election systems like oregon's. certainly, it offers convenience for voters, particularly young and rural voters. budget aimsd 2019 to improve upon oregon's vote by mail system by providing prepaid postage for every ballot. what drove you to propose this change and what overall impact you think it will have on voter participation and voters experience overall? gov. brown: i just want to share
a story of a voter that we met on the doorstep. >> one of your seven? gov. brown: no. i think this is the 2016 election cycle and folks were doing outreach and knocking on doors to make sure that ballots were coming in, given the importance of that particular election cycle, like everyone, honestly. our engagement team had knocked on a door of a voter by the name of charles. aarles is african american, veteran of both vietnam and korea. his commanders had told him that his voice didn't matter and there was no reason to vote. fortunately, he had been registered through our avr system. he was registered to vote, he had just never actually done it. folks helped them through the process. he was able to get his ballot completed, unfortunately, he
didn't have a stamp. the team picked it up and took it to a dropbox. for me, that was a real lesson in the having a stamp can be a barrier. ruralularly for our voters who may live miles away from the nearest dropbox or from to our younger folks who might not necessarily have a stamp at home. i'm absolutely committed to getting postage-paid done this legislative session. we see it as a barrier and there should be no barriers for people in exercising their very fundamental right to vote. it's a couple million dollar cost. i think for me in terms of elections and ensuring that every voice gets heard, it's absolutely priceless. >> that is fantastic. what is the response from the
legislature? as people look to -- you have a budget, you have priorities, certainly it is a priority to have every vote counted and priceless, what is the early take on the legislature's reaction? gov. brown: this is something we have been working on for a couple of years now, and i have to say legislators probably about my age are pretty grumpy about funding this. they are like, why can't people just get a stamp. what i am seeking now is a bipartisan effort and our republican secretary of state is very excited about this. foklks see it as a barrier for people participating and we should remove every single barrier for people dissipating in the fundamental act. >> the data is mixed when it comes to whether vote by mail increases participation in general elections. it certainly has been shown to improve turnout in local elections, which have been
historically low. sort of actor consideration as you think about and are you seeing that same kind of trend when it comes to oregon in terms of voter participation? gov. brown: yes. i think vote by mail or vote by home really took a culture change and it was a gradual shift to vote by mail. we used it for local elections, school board bond measures and that type of thing. we stood for a special election for an election for our u.s. senator a few years ago when we had a resignation and it was very successful. and then it was very interesting. it passed, i think it was a republican-controlled legislature and our democratic governor vetoed it at the request of the dnc at the time. our democratic secretary of state went to the ballot with an
initiative and oregonians overwhelmingly supported it. it was culture change, definitely. system as voting at the polls. it is extremely cost effective. it's a 20-30%. forxtremely accessible oregonians no matter if you live in a rural location or the city of portland. it makes a really wonderful tool. i think there is pushed back around the at home and vote by mail. people say, i miss standing in line and talking to my neighbors. people are having ballot parties, discussion of the ballot. it comes out about 2.5-3 weeks ahead of time as well voters pamphlet with issue statements
and candidate statements ahead of time. people are having meetings in their neighborhoods, in their churches, in the synagogues, and i think it's driving a higher level of engagement. frank the more so than standing in line, because he wants to do that at this point? >> i sort of miss the standing online thing. school, it'stary true, it's a community experience. but having those community experiences in your kitchens, in your houses of worship, is also another way to generate community. and interest in voting. that's fantastic. you mentioned security with relation to voting at home. talk to you little bit about election interference by foreign and domestic adversaries. major concern for major elected
officials in the midterm elections. we have seen a lot of improvements made to election infrastructure at the state and local level. hired ate, oregon, cyber security expert to improve the overall security of the voter registration database. but there seems to be a lack of urgency, no surprise here, at the federal level particularly from the current administration. do you think the federal government has done enough to help prepare and secure oregon and other states from foreign interference from election meddling? absolutely not. i'm shocked there isn't more fuhrer from americans on this issue. frankly, this is the base of our democracy. everyt to make sure that single ballot, every single hastion is secure and
integrity. i'm appalled by what is happening at the federal level, which means nothing around the security and integrity of our elections. but frankly i'm also concerned about what's happening in communities around the entire nation. after the gore v bush election, our congress stood up and made a significant election in our system. that was a lifetime ago, honestly. most communities are working with elections equipment that is out of date. i know that the machines don't even have the ability to fix some of these machines. iss appalling to me what happening in terms of our elections technology. and frankly i'm just amazed that americans aren't standing up and demanding that congress and our
president invest in both security and integrity and frankly the modernization of our elections systems. is way overdue. winnie: let me ask you specifically, what additional steps do you all, oregon, plan and the 2020en now presidential election to shore up those systems? you talk about a lack of a response from the federal government, but of what additional support from washington would other states, including oregon, need to prepare for what challenges may come in 2020? gov. brown: so i think it's mostly around cyber security. i haven't been secretary of state in a few years, but i certainly know that attacks on our system occur on a reagan basis. and that the ability to have the technology tools to both fight back those attacks and make sure
that we have the technology to attacks areose absolutely instrumental. and frankly, it's a resources game. that's why i think it is so key that congress step up. that our president step up to invest. in terms of oregon specifically, what i do know is that because of the vote by mail or voted it enables the systems to be audited pre-and post election and verify the outcomes. and i think that's critically important. and because it is a paper ballot , and i can't stress this enough , we can replicate the results. in 1992, when i was the winner by seven votes, i was able to sit and watch the entire day and watch the ballots be recounted and go through, watch the elections folks ago through the ballot.
that doesn't happen in other states that are entirely electronic. that's one of the reasons why i think the vote by mail system is secure. it's pretty important in these tight elections. shifting gears a moment. -- winnie: shifting gears for a moment, you and your opponent ran what was known as the most expensive gubernatorial campaign in history. there's been a lot of talk about the dangers role that money plays in our electoral system. and the influence on lawmakers. what needs to be adopted in oregon and nationally to quell the concerns of everyday americans who don't feel as though their voices are being drowned out by big donors? let me just share
one of my experiences. one of the states in the country with no restrict -- no restrictions on campaign finance. my opponent received at least $3 million from one donor. 2 million of that directly. one should be able to purchase a megaphone so loud that it drowns out all the other .oices something i've been working on for a number of years is bringing reasonable campaign-finance limits to oregon that will work either a constitutional amendment because of a court ruling in 1997. as a constitutional amendment, or voters will need to pass it. without examining all the states, we could be doing a
better job with technology and ensuring who is investing in the campaign. we are going to be worse. in 2005, despite bipartisan effort, this transparent campaign system. and then they go to seven days. to shine a brighter light, it ensures that the reporting happens more frequently than 30 days. particularly in the last two weeks. when the voters have the ballot in their hands. we are working to enhance reporting. overturning citizens united. even my mom, a republican from the midwest, supports
campaign-finance limits, it's something we can work together on. and we need a higher level of transparency. with what they want from the expenditures. winnie: in terms of transparency through money and politics, what are you hearing from citizens about those challenges? what is good about oregon is we are able to follow the money and politics. we should be able to follow it at a much higher level. millions of dollars of money being spent on dark sources. we are working on providing the tools. making sure that's available for
voters to follow in money and politics. people are telling me that they think it's outrageous that one person should be able to spend 2 million, $3 million on a campout -- campaign. that there were many ads. oregonians, americans want a level playing field in terms of these campaigns. i could sit and ask you questions all day, but that wouldn't be fair to the audience. i want to turn to you all. maybe if you have a question, razor hand, maybe adam can bring it to you. we also have a couple of questions from students and from the audience.
in the back here on the aisle, that would be great. >> you seem to have a deep root within you that has kept you faithful for a lifetime, our kids are the most vulnerable. ,o you register in high school and then how do you track and the college sometimes far away from home? and what is our solution to that ? girl he of voting perhaps being more difficult to get them out of the college dorm rooms and play areas and into the voting booth? gov. brown: so as a former secretary of state, i have to say, we are missing the boat in terms of civics education by
waiting until young people are eligible to vote. we know from the data that it is really clear that civics education needs to start not in high school, but in middle school and i applaud the efforts of organizations like the current -- classroom law project to literally give students hands-on learning experiences to figure out how you change a city ordinance, testifying on a bill in front of the legislature. thosenot neglect investments in civic education. and i have to say thank you to all the volunteers and volunteer lawyers for doing the work across the country. in terms of registering voters in the high school, absolutely. but one of the most fun signs of adulthood is getting your drivers license. registrationvoter at the age of 16, at the same time that you are automatically being registered to vote, i would say that's 99% of the battle.
because his vote by mail, they consume to go online and provide their new college address. they get a ballot whether they are going to georgetown university or the university of montana or, frankly, i had better put an oregon school in their, portland state in downtown portland. it makes it convenient. i also know that parents wind up mailing their ballots. but for engaging students who have left home, there is no better way of doing it than vote by home or vote by mail. haves student associations very active voter engagement and our congress,or our congressional delegation to be very active about appearing on campus. it makes a huge difference. thank you.
winnie: i think the other piece that's interesting, and you mentioned this earlier in your remarks, is that in addition to registering young people to vote , having policies that speak to the needs and challenges of young people is really important. you talk about education and housing, about college affordability and health care. all of these issues speak to young people. i think it's not only important to have registration efforts, that's critical. but you also need to make sure that you don't ignore a group of people until just weeks before an election. that you are actually being authentic. i think that you as governor of oregon are doing just that and that's critical to ensuring that people have a reason to vote. >> absolutely. and we can show the students the data. it's really clear. in 2008 we saw that we had a relatively grand student voter turnout.
and then in 2009 we saw a direct correlation with the legislature putting significant resources into the university system to ensure that students of all income levels could attend. we were able to show these directed data points to students and it really makes a difference. know,tell them when, you over the age of 65, 90% of people vote, who are elected officials going to listen to? people over the age of 65, right? get 90% of students under the age of 30 or 25 voting , it will absolutely change the policies that elected officials are focused on. winnie: so true. i think we have a student from howard university in the audience with a question to ask. hello, i attend howard
university at ec in d.c. election i was supposed to vote for the first election, the first it would be voting in. as a freshman student, i still call ohio my home. i requested an absentee a la from my home state. i was told to be patient and keep track of my ballot through the system. i waited and waited but my ballot never came. i missed my first midterm election. i was eligible to vote. what are some solutions that can be implement it at the state and national level to promote young people from going to this situation again. as someone who literally won their first race by seven votes, i just want to tell you that your voice is really important and your voice
-- vote needs to be counted. to makeumbent upon us sure that we can make that happen in our own states and across the country. i want to a bloody efforts of leadership in congress right now of my two senators, merkley and widen, for tackling some of these issues. and that is eliminating requirements around absentee ballots. making sure that folks that are away from home can vote, essentially, a lecture on a clay . and we implemented that system for our overseas military and we input that over 10 years ago with a signature verification, don't panic. these are some of the techniques that can be used. the online registration and address updating can all help. but i do think that in a situation like yours -- and we had it happen in an election
cycle i think with hurricane sandy, we got a call from voters stranded on the east coast and couldn't get home and wanted to vote and we were able to transmit essentially an electronic ballot to them. they were able to vote, verify their signature, and have the vote be counted. so, there are techniques and methodologies. we have to let people in the secretary of state's office and in the congress and in the legislatures that support these policies, it means holding people's feet to the fire as well. winnie: to underscore something you said, i think that people neglect the importance of the role of secretaries of state. not just because you were one. they are essential, just essential policy positions for so many of these critical issues. absolutely. take a look at texas and north carolina.
texas, the law passed, a voter registration law that prohibited use of student id as id for voting, which i find absolutely appalling. in north carolina there were so many things that happened there. these are because we are, in the united states, alexi people who are specifically restricting access to the ballot. they are doing it conscientiously and very explicitly to young people. to people of color, to low income people, to our seniors. it has been probably a two decade effort to restrict access to the ballot and we have to stand up and we have to fight against it every step of the way, including our secretaries of state. winnie: absolutely. [applause] winnie: got a question of pure in the front now?
>> thank you very much for your efforts. when you get out of the d.c. bubble and go to states like nevada, local news media, local radio or tv stations, as well as campus newspapers, they are quite important within the states. more so than cnn or fox news. people watch those things and listen. so, what was the activity in your local media dispersed across the board for these efforts of yours? gov. brown: to the automatic voter registration? i have to be up front with you. first of all, it was a multiyear effort. i started in 2013 when i was secretary of state and we came up with a concept and drafted it . we literally lost it on the senate floor by one vote. it was very partisan. democrats only, we couldn't get any republican votes for it.
but we were able to take a run at it in 15. i said that this was going to be the entire focus of our secretary of state's office, to pass this registration. we got it drafted. it was literally on its way to the governor's desk when my governor resigned and i became governor. the secretary of state is lieutenant governor, i got to sign the bill. we got no republican support from it. i would say that the press was mixed about it. you thatll particularly young people were .xtremely enthusiastic our communities of color were extremely enthusiastic. because they knew what would happen. it would enable us to engage in more diverse population in the voting process. i think that the press in oregon, generally speaking, is ok with it. i can't say that they are
enthusiastic with it. frankly, they have been -- we haven't lamented i would say pretty seamlessly and weak rafted a blueprint for other states to use. i know that at least 15 other states have passed something akin to our automatic voter registration system. i knew it was the right thing to do, and i didn't care where the press was. i was going to do everything i could to make it happen and implement it successfully and by all accounts i think it has been extremely successful. i'm so proud of the democracy team and generation progress, with the millennial outreach arm, as i mentioned to generation progress launched our voice our vote, a store bank that documents the challenges
that young people face when trying to vote. i want to read a question from a florida voter currently at cornell university. as the federal government refuses to move the needle on pro-democracy and pro-voter reforms in my state of florida restoring the voting rights of ..4 million incarcerated people this as we head into the next election cycle, what do you think about that voter driven initiative to bring 1.4 million people into voting rolls? gov. brown: it's extraordinary and it makes my heart sing.
i mentioned earlier that the vote by mail system came through the initiative process. to the people. we saw what happened in florida and i absolutely believe that if that had been in place before the 2018 election, you might have seen a different turnout for the gubernatorial race in florida. the think that because of challenge in terms of our legislatures and our congress, i think there are 23 or 24 states that have the initiative system. the should be a strategic plan regarding how we engage voters with the dynamics being sort of one size doesn't fit all. to do it at a state-by-state level, there ought to be a campaign and it ought to be strategic and comprehensive around the country. how do we do this? let me give an example.
a 30 day cuthave off up for the voter registration that's in our constitution. it came as a result of a takeover of a small town. it's a long story i don't want to go into. antelope, oregon. but we know that that would be very difficult to change. that is why we were focused on automatic voter registration because now we have 90% of our eligible electorate to register it. so, it has to be a state-by-state action plan. this is a great -- i would be happy to work with anyone in terms of how do we build this plan? we have to be strategic, systematic, and it has to be fitting each of the states one by one. but i know we can do this. i know that the people can make a difference. fantastic. i want to end with one last question from neil and, in portland, oregon. she writes that as a young working-class woman of color,
she often wonders if the policies championed by leaders have her communities in mind. "often we are only talked about around election season and as constituent groups. our lived everyday experience is forgotten around the rest of the year. how are you censoring the most marginalized communities in your agenda and ensuring the we are counted and heard year-round? gov. brown: thank you for the question. less than as a whole. 33.9% of all likely hispanic voters, our motor voters in african-american voters are motor voters and 26% of likely asian voters are motor voters. we know it's making a difference in terms of immunities of color and we are seeing it on the ground in terms of policy. this could be a very long
conversation, but for me it's about people, it's about policy, and it's about how we spend our resources. thent to share some of passes that we released last year. one, we know that with really strong leadership from the legislature and from my office we were able to pass cover all kids, ensuring every single child in oregon regardless of their immigration status has access to health care. we were able to pass the women's reproductive health equity act, which is landmark legislation, ensuring that every woman regardless of her income and where she lives, regardless of her immigration status, has access to the full complement of reproductive health services. so, we are seeing the difference in terms of our policies on the ground. so criticalit is that you move forward off the policies that make sure that
every single voice is heard and that every vote is counted. i am sad to say that the hour has come to a close. it's just amazing. thank you so much for the questions. not just from what you are doing for oratory -- oregonians, but leading the country in this conversation, i want to wish you luck in having conversations with other governors over the and thank you for being here at the center for american progress. gov. brown: thank you all so much. [captioning performed by the national captioning institute, which is responsible for its caption content and accuracy. visit ncicap.org] [captions copyright national cable satellite corp. 2018]
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