Amid criticism of what’s wrong with mail-in voting, Oregon Secretary of State Bev Clarno has shown what’s right about it.
For the thousands of Oregonians who have lost their homes or been displaced in wildfires, Clarno says their mail-in ballots will be held at their respective local Post Offices. If Oregonians have requested mail to be transferred to a temporary address, they should contact election officials to have their ballots sent to that address.
“For any Oregonians displaced from their home and concerned about voting in the general election this November, rest assured we have a plan and are working closely with local election officials to ensure you can receive your ballot, vote and make your voices heard,” Clarno said in a statement.
Oregon general election ballots go into the mail October 14. There is lingering concern that postal delays could mean ballots take longer to reach voters and completed ballots returned by mail may not arrive until after the election, which would invalidate them. Clarno pointed to positive working relationships with the US Postal Service, noting Oregon primary ballots appeared in mailboxes in one to three days after they were mailed.
President Trump has waged a war of words on mail-in voting, labeling it fraught with fraud. Despite that, a huge chunk of the US electorate has requested absentee ballots to vote by mail. Oregon, Washington and Colorado have universal vote-by-mail in place.
Trump critics have accused the President and his allies of undermining vote-by-mail by hamstringing the US Postal Service through removal of sorting machines and neighborhood mailboxes. US Postal officials, for their part, have pledged to make mailed-in ballots a priority, as has been the case in previous elections.
“I confess that when vote by mail was first adopted in Oregon, I was skeptical. To me, there was just something inspiring and patriotic about making the trip to my local polling place and entering the voting booth. There is something much more inspiring and patriotic, however, about safe and secure elections with much higher voter participation rates than the national average.”
A rancher from Central Oregon who was Oregon’s first Republican woman to serve as Speaker of the House, Clarno has vigorously defended the integrity of mail-in voting in Oregon, as she in an article she wrote in June:
“As secretary of state, my job responsibilities include ensuring the fairness, accuracy and security of Oregon’s elections. It’s a job made much easier thanks to our vote by mail system – a system that has been emulated by a growing number of other states, and is being used by many states in this November’s general election in response to COVID-19.
“All of Oregon’s nearly 2.9 million registered voters receive a ballot in the mail. They didn’t have to request it, it just arrived. They then have the opportunity to mail those completed ballots (in a postage paid envelope) or drop it off at one of the many secured drop boxes in the state.
“I confess that when vote by mail was first adopted in Oregon, I was skeptical. To me, there was just something inspiring and patriotic about making the trip to my local polling place and entering the voting booth. There is something much more inspiring and patriotic, however, about safe and secure elections with much higher voter participation rates than the national average.
“I’m proud to share that in our May 19th primary we saw the highest number of ballots cast for an Oregon primary election, totaling over 1.3 million – roughly 100,000 more than the last record-breaking primary vote in 2016. It is wonderful to see so many Oregonians participating in democracy.”
As wildfires continue to smolder, Oregon lawmakers will reconvene virtually next week for an unusual five-day series of Legislative Days. It’s likely the legislative Emergency Board will meet to authorize funding for communities devastated by the fires.
Next Wednesday, state economists unveil the latest economic report. If it shows a deeper-than-anticipated drop in state tax revenue, it’s possible the legislature could convene in special session to approve a further budget rebalance.
Word leaked that legislative leaders are laying plans to continue virtual sessions in the 2021 legislative session, which gets underway in February. That presumes an effective COVID-19 vaccine may not be widely available until well into next year.
Meanwhile, the Oregon Employment Department announced the state’s jobless rate in August dropped to 7.7 percent, a significant improvement from the 10.2 percent rate in July. Employment officials cautioned that the numbers don’t reflect economic disruption caused by the wildfires and some layoff announcements associated with COVID-19 impacts.