It’s time for the 2021 legislative wrap-up. When we entered the session in January we had a bold agenda to transform our electoral system. We prioritized bills that were rooted in racial, economic, and youth justice, and more specifically, ones that would break down systemic barriers to participation, and increase equitable processes and outcomes in elections.
Now that the legislative session has concluded, here are some of the achievements that we are celebrating with our community, coalition and organizational partners:
- Updating Postmark Date for Voting Accessibility (HB 3291): Ensures every ballot postmarked by Election Day is counted.
- Voter Language Access Act (HB 3021): Requires the Secretary of State’s (SOS) Office to make publicly available the top 5 most commonly spoken languages, other than English, on their website and instructs the SOS to translate and publish voter pamphlets to be made publicly available on their website. Led by Forward Together Action.
- Civics Education Standards Updates (SB 702): This bill requires that when the State Board of Education is reviewing social studies standards for kindergarten through grade 12, they shall consider emphasizing civics education and consult various community stakeholders.
- Fair Shot for All: We worked in coalition to support a legislative agenda that roots Oregon’s economic recovery in racial, gender, and economic justice. Lawmakers heard our calls for change and passed Child Care for Oregon (improving access to care and providing financial stability for providers), Sanctuary Promise Act (protecting immigrants from racial profiling) and Healthy Homes (investing in-home repairs to improve energy efficiency and safety).
While Oregon is one of the most accessible states to vote in (and continues to be thanks to these new policies), the attack on voting rights and significant voter disenfranchisement in many other states made it all the more imperative that we passed pro-voter policies to demonstrate that these practices are secure, and necessary for equitable engagement.
So, while the passage of the listed bills was important, failure to pass our other priority bills this session was a missed opportunity to further advance accessibility and racial justice in voting systems.
Through our partnership with Oregon Justice Resource Center, Oregon had the chance to be the first state to restore voting rights to currently incarcerated individuals in the Oregon Department of Corrections custody. The bill (HB 2366/SB 571) advanced out of its policy committee before being held up in the budget committee.
Other legislation that did not pass this session included 17-year-olds voting in the primary election if 18 by the general election (HB 2679); Modernizing Voter Registration by expanding Automatic Voter Registration to more state agencies and improving online voter registration (HB 2499); Ranked Choice Voting (HB 2678/SB 791), and lowering the voting age to 16 for school district elections (SB 776).
We’re so thankful to the countless people who showed up by emailing their legislators, giving verbal or written testimony, texting friends to get involved or simply sharing our social media graphics to support our work this session.
We look forward to continuing this work in the interim by having conversations with partners and legislators so that we are ready to come back strong in the 2022 short legislative session.
Thank you for your continued support and advocacy to see out our vision of young people boldly leading the state forward, an inclusive and accessible democracy, and strong and resilient communities.
Isabela Villarreal, Policy and Communications Manager
- 940+ people sent emails to their lawmakers in support of restoration of voting rights, expanding automatic voter registration, and/or supporting 16 and 17 year olds voting in school district elections.
- Over 34 pieces of written and verbal testimony were given from staff and volunteers.
- Held 12 legislative advocacy events – including monthly letter writing to currently incarcerated individuals, educational events on ranked choice voting and Vote16, and our first ever virtual youth lobby day
Here are other notable bills that we endorsed that also passed this session:
Slavery Abolition on the Ballot (SJR 10): Led by OASIS. Asks voters to abolish the provision in the Oregon Constitution that allows slavery and involuntary servitude as a punishment for a crime.
Student Voice Bill (HB 2590): Led by Oregon Student Association, the Student Voice Bill, championed by Rep Alonso Leon, will create a legislative committee to tour every public university and community college in Oregon to hear from students, faculty, and staff and focus on what support institutions need to help underrepresented students, particularly BIPOC students, low-income students, rural students, student parents, and students with a GED or High School equivalency.
Oregon Energy Affordability Act (HB 2475) + 100% Clean Energy for All (HB 2021): Led by Oregon Just Transition Alliance, the Energy Affordability Act will help Oregon families afford their energy bills through lower energy rates for residential ratepayers with lower incomes who most need the relief. 100% Clean Energy for All is an ambitious bill to transition the state’s electricity to 100% clean energy by 2040 while centering benefits for communities of color and rural, coastal, and low-income communities and workers.