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May 2007
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Election Day already?

For all you Oregonians out there, today’s Election Day. It’s obviously too late to mail in your ballot, so take it to a drop box near you. You can even vote the old-fashioned way, in a booth, at your county elections office. But why do that when you can fill it out at home with the comfort of the internet’s help?

If you’re not from Oregon, our elections process might sound a little strange. We, in fact, have universal vote-by-mail in the state. In 1998, Oregon voters passed a ballot measure requiring statewide vote-by-mail. Ballots are sent out two weeks in advance of elections, and can be turned in at any point between then and Election Day. Results, of course, are not tallied until voting closes on Election Day.

The ballots themselves are sent out with two envelopes: one, a secrecy envelope that does not identify the voter. The ballot is placed in the secrecy envelope and then that envelope is placed in the return envelope. This one has the voter’s name and address, and it must be signed to be valid. Signatures on every envelope are checked against the signature on file with the voter’s registration. Around 75% of Oregon’s population that is eligible to vote is registered, and turnout for the general election last fall was 70.8% of registered voters. Bill Bradbury, our Secretary of State, wrote a great op ed in the WaPo about our vote-by-mail system [link]. If you’re not up on your American government knowledge, our state SoSs are generally in charge of overseeing elections.

(In a side note to Oregon voters, Bradbury is done serving in 2008, and we’ll be electing a new SoS–a really critical post if we want to continue to have fair elections–you know, elections in which minorities are not mysteriously kept from voting due to machine breakdown in low-income neighborhoods and in which all the eligible ballots are counted.)

As of a moment ago, voter turnout in Multnomah County, where I live, was 17%. I checked to see whether my ballot had been received last night, and it had not yet been counted in the total. What’s really great about this system is that you can make sure that your ballot made it in, and political groups know whom to target for contact before the deadline. Not that I like political calls myself, but…it does help get out the vote.

Oregon Secretary of State website
Vote-by-Mail links on SoS site
Multnomah County Elections 2007 turnout
Wikipedia Vote-by-Mail article