SALEM, Ore. (AP) – People registering to vote in Oregon for the first time would have to show proof of citizenship under a bill narrowly passed Thursday by the House.
Supporters say the step is needed to prevent illegal immigrants from fraudulently registering and voting, but opponents contend there’s little or no evidence that it is happening.
The measure passed 31-25 and now goes to the Senate.
The bill’s sponsor, Rep. Linda Flores, R-Clackamas, said there are no procedures to ensure that only legal citizens are registering because little or no checking is done.
The bill requires first-time registrants to produce evidence of citizenship, such as a birth certificate, naturalization papers or a passport.
“We need checks and balances before the voting begins,” Flores said.
But foes said it would discourage voting by putting needless burdens on citizens who might have problems locating birth records or other documents.
Opponents also said there’s no evidence of any non-citizen risking criminal penalties by illegally voting in Oregon.
“This is a misguided and uninformed response to a problem that doesn’t exist,” said Rep. Peter Buckley, D-Ashland. “Why would an illegal immigrant jeopardize himself by trying to register to vote?”
Before the bill passed, the majority Republicans defeated a Democrat-backed substitute bill that would have prohibited paying by the signature for signing up new voters.
Democratic Rep. Paul Holvey of Eugene cited reports that some signature gatherers last year may have been paid to turn in cards for voters registering in one party while throwing away the cards of those who registered in other parties.
The Republicans, however, said such reports were never proven.