SALEM, Ore. (AP) — Oregon state lawmakers are considering a bill that would give residents the option of providing their racial identity, ethnicity and language preference when registering to vote.
Those backing the measure say the publicly available data would allow for stronger engagement with voters of color and would make it easier for state and local elections officials to address racial inequity in voting access.
Eight states already collect similar data via voter registration. Listing those details when registering to vote would be voluntary.
“Right now, because we do not collect this data, we do not have a clear picture of how well voting populations across the state are served by the systems that we have,” said Rep. Khanh Pham, D-Portland, the chief sponsor of House Bill 2745 during its first public hearing Thursday.
Similar data is already collected in fields including education and health care to improve outcomes in different demographic groups, and the same should be done for the state’s elections, Pham said.
Providing demographic information would be voluntary. Oregonians currently have four ways to register to vote, and the bill would require that the option of providing race, ethnicity, and preferred language information be available in each manner.
During a committee hearing, House Republican Leader Christine Drazan, R-Canby, questioned the need for the information to be public, if the intent is to simply study participation. No one spoke in opposition to the bill during testimony or public comment Thursday.