Every state should do what Oregon did to get voters to turn out. It worked, big time.

A magical thing happens when registering to vote becomes easier — or, if you can even imagine, effortless.

Case in point: Oregon.

Image via iStock.


In 2015, Oregon passed a law utilizing the state's DMV to significantly increase the number of people registered to vote.

Under the new provision, any Oregonian who interacts with the state's Department of Motor Vehicles (to, say, get a new driver's license) sees their information automatically sent to the secretary of state's elections division, registering them as a voter.

A resident would need to opt out — not opt in — to the voter registration process.

Photo by Don Ryan/AP.

As The New York Times reported in December, the new law was deemed a big success shortly after the 2016 election as more than 225,000 Oregonians became new registrants through the DMV (not too shabby for a state of about 4 million).

Now, a new report from the Alliance for Youth Action is pinpointing who, exactly, headed to the polls in Oregon during the election.

Of all the states, Oregon saw the largest spike in voter turnout among young people and people of color between the last two presidential elections. It shows the automatic voter registration law did precisely what it was intended to do: help boost turnout, particularly among demographic groups that needed it most.

Millennials — who tend to move around more often than their parents (which complicates their voter registration process) — and people of color — who face obstacles, often politically-motivated, that suppress their vote — generally lag behind other groups in terms of election day turnout.

57% of people ages 18 through 29 voted in the 2016 election — up from just 37% in 2012, according to the report from the Alliance for Youth Action. And a whopping 79% of people of color voted last November — up from 53% in 2012.

Those figures mark impressive 20% and 26% swings, respectively.

"The state already had one of the highest turnout rates in the country, and now it’s building an ever stronger voter base," Allegra Chapman, director of voting and elections at Common Cause, told HuffPost. "This is definitely the direction in which the country needs to go: amplifying all eligible voices to create a democracy that accounts for all."

Efforts to pass automatic voter registration laws, like the one in Oregon, are cropping up across the country. But so, too, are laws quietly intending to do just the opposite.

States like California, Vermont, West Virginia, and Connecticut have followed in Oregon's footsteps, implementing similar measures to simplify the voter registration process for constituents. Many other states, usually controlled by Republican legislatures, have moved in the opposite direction in recent years, passing laws that further crack down on who can vote and when they can do it.  

Photo by Don Ryan/AP.

Laws that require a voter to show up to the polls with a valid photo ID have been touted by Republicans as a means to stomp out voter fraud. But voter fraud isn't a widespread problem, research has found, and the restriction disproportionately prevents people of color from voting — a group that, conveniently enough, tends to vote blue.

Other states have limited early voting as well — a move that, again, affects non-white voters to a larger degree.

"Access to the ballot matters," Sarah Audelo, executive director of the Alliance for Youth Action, noted to HuffPost. "As a country, we should be taking a hard look at ourselves to see what are we doing to make sure that our people are able to vote, that they’re able to participate in our democracy."

Because, as Oregon showed us, our democracy works better when more of us are at the table.

Photo by Anna Shvets from Pexels
True

Increasingly customers are looking for more conscious shopping options. According to a Nielsen survey in 2018, nearly half (48%) of U.S. consumers say they would definitely or probably change their consumption habits to reduce their impact on the environment.

But while many consumers are interested in spending their money on products that are more sustainable, few actually follow through. An article in the 2019 issue of Harvard Business Review revealed that 65% of consumers said they want to buy purpose-driven brands that advocate sustainability, but only about 26% actually do so. It's unclear where this intention gap comes from, but thankfully it's getting more convenient to shop sustainably from many of the retailers you already support.

Amazon recently introduced Climate Pledge Friendly, "a new program to help make it easy for customers to discover and shop for more sustainable products." When you're browsing Amazon, a Climate Pledge Friendly label will appear on more than 45,000 products to signify they have one or more different sustainability certifications which "help preserve the natural world, reducing the carbon footprint of shipments to customers," according to the online retailer.

Amazon

In order to distinguish more sustainable products, the program partnered with a wide range of external certifications, including governmental agencies, non-profits, and independent laboratories, all of which have a focus on preserving the natural world.

Keep Reading Show less
True

If the past year has taught us nothing else, it's that sending love out into the world through selfless acts of kindness can have a positive ripple effect on people and communities. People all over the United States seemed to have gotten the message — 71% of those surveyed by the World Giving Index helped a stranger in need in 2020. A nonprofit survey found 90% helped others by running errands, calling, texting and sending care packages. Many people needed a boost last year in one way or another and obliging good neighbors heeded the call over and over again — and continue to make a positive impact through their actions in this new year.

Upworthy and P&G Good Everyday wanted to help keep kindness going strong, so they partnered up to create the Lead with Love Fund. The fund awards do-gooders in communities around the country with grants to help them continue on with their unique missions. Hundreds of nominations came pouring in and five winners were selected based on three criteria: the impact of action, uniqueness, and "Upworthy-ness" of their story.

Here's a look at the five winners:

Edith Ornelas, co-creator of Mariposas Collective in Memphis, Tenn.

Edith Ornelas has a deep-rooted connection to the asylum-seeking immigrant families she brings food and supplies to families in Memphis, Tenn. She was born in Jalisco, Mexico, and immigrated to the United States when she was 7 years old with her parents and sister. Edith grew up in Chicago, then moved to Memphis in 2016, where she quickly realized how few community programs existed for immigrants. Two years later, she helped create Mariposas Collective, which initially aimed to help families who had just been released from detention centers and were seeking asylum. The collective started out small but has since grown to approximately 400 volunteers.