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What will Oregon’s automatic voter registration do for voter turnout?

Oregon Gov. Kate Brown (D) holds up an automatic voter registration bill after signing it Monday in Salem, Ore. (AP Photo/Don Ryan)
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Oregon Gov. Kate Brown (D) signed a bill Monday that will automatically register people to vote if they've had an interaction with the state's DMV since 2013. It's the first bill of its kind in the country.

But what will that mean for elections in the state? Comparing the percentage of people in Oregon who are eligible to register, who have registered and who turned out to vote in its most recent election with comparable information in Maine (the state with the highest voter turnout), Alabama (one of several states criticized for its voter ID laws), and Australia (where voting is required and non-voting is penalized) shows what kind of impact it might have.

Data for the eligible voters (in the U.S., that typically means people over the age of 18 who are citizens and not felons) was obtained through their secretary of state offices, voter turnout data from the United States Elections Project, and all Australia data from Australian Electoral Commission.

One thing that's for sure is threatening to fine people for not voting, as in Australia, ups your numbers. Still, Maine has a higher percentage of registered voters than Australia. Out of the 1,041,475 people who could be registered there, 989,330 are, according to the Maine secretary of state's office, and 58 percent of them showed up at the polls in November.

And while Alabama has a higher percentage of eligible voters registered than Oregon, its turnout drops in comparison. Turns out more people vote if you mail them their ballot than if they have to go to a polling place and bring IDs.

[Related: Voter turnout in 2014 was the lowest since WWII]

Oregon estimates the bill will add 300,000 new voters to its rolls. According to the state DMV, there are 876,086 more drivers with licenses in the state than registered voters, however, not all of those drivers may be eligible and some may opt out of being registered. Adding 300,000 voters to its rolls would increase the percentage of eligible voters who are registered to 83 percent, higher than Alabama.

We won't have to wait too long to see what the increase in voters means for Oregon since the state has some elections this year, and more in 2016. It was already a pioneer in voting experimentation, being the first to adopt vote-by-mail elections in 1998. If it's automatic registration idea works out, don't be surprised if other states start considering it.