Don't look now, but the Oregon Legislature just decided to let 16-year-olds register to vote.
That's not as alarming as it might sound. It actually makes a great deal of sense.
The law already lets 17-year-olds register, although they can't vote until they turn 18. The idea is to get young people onto the voting rolls early, so they'll start receiving a ballot in the mail as soon as they are old enough. The hope is, that will prompt them to engage in the political process and get in the habit of voting regularly.
Why drop the early registration age to 16? Oregon's new Motor Voter system automatically registers eligible voters who have contact with the Driver and Motor Vehicle Services Division, so young people applying for driver's licenses also will enter the system.
Approximately 20,000 16-year-olds get driver's licenses every year, but their next contact with the DMV likely won't happen for eight years, when those licenses are up for renewal. This way, they will be automatically added at 16, and can start voting at 18.
Of course, registering people doesn't guarantee they will vote. The Motor Voter system allows people to opt out if they wish. But chances are, many will stay registered. And the more who participate in self-government, the better.
Rep. Pam Marsh, D-Ashland, was among the co-sponsors of the bill, which goes to Gov. Kate Brown. When she signs it as expected, Oregon will join 11 states and the District of Columbia in allowing 16-year-olds to register.