Since the pandemic took hold in the U.S. this spring, states across the country have worked to implement voting by mail in an effort to limit the number of people who crowd into polling places on Election Day.
In Oregon, our election officials have started mailing ballots to every registered voter across Oregon for the November 3, 2020 General Election. For the record, Oregonians stopped “going to the polls,” by and large, decades ago, as voters agreed to become one of the first states to embrace and go exclusively vote by mail in all elections.
Our Voter’s Pamphlet arrived in the mail but is also available online in multiple formats including a Spanish translation, digital audio and accessible text for voters with disabilities.
My husband, nephew and I worked our way through the 2020 Oregon Voter’s Pamphlet reading the measures and some of the arguments in favor and opposition of the measures. We talked about the implications of limiting political campaign contributions and expenditures, increasing cigarette and cigar taxes, allowing the manufacture, delivery and administration of psilocybin at supervised, licensed facilities, and reclassifying the possession/penalties for specified drugs. We discussed the candidates and where they stand on racial justice, the COVID-19 pandemic, climate change, reproductive rights, healthcare, gun reform, women’s economic security, immigration and mail-in voting. It was a positive and constructive conversation.
Because of all the information or lack there of about voting by mail, I did a little research into the process and here’s what I found out.
In our state, the county elections office handles voter registration; mailing and receipt of ballots, including replacement ballots; as well as voter service centers and places of deposit. All county election offices are required to submit a security plan to the Secretary of State ahead of the elections. Election leaders also work with local law enforcement, FBI and cybersecurity agencies to guard against potential threats.
In Oregon, after marking our ballot, we put it into a “ballot secrecy envelope,” which contains no identifying information. This prevents election workers or others from knowing which person cast the ballot inside.
That secrecy envelope goes into a second envelope, which is what is delivered to election officials. I have to sign the outside of the second envelope. I can either mail the ballot back to our local election office and the postage is already paid or I also have the option to take the second envelope with its contents to one of several drop-off boxes setup around our town.
When the ballots arrive at the local election office, the name and signature on the envelope are compared to the official registration records. In the case that the signatures don’t match, the voter is notified by mail, and given the opportunity to correct or explain the discrepancy. Of course, such corrections take time, so this is a good reason for voters who are casting their ballots by mail to send in their votes early.
In Oregon, each outer envelope – the one I signed – has a unique bar code printed on it. This lets me track the status of my ballot after I have either mailed it or dropped it off.
All ballots must be received at county election offices by 8 p.m. on Election Day. So someone who is running late should probably avoid the mailbox and find a drop-off site instead.
From everything I found, voting by mail is rarely subject to fraud, does not give an advantage to one political party over another and if done properly, can in fact inspire confidence in the voting process.
And now, it’s time to vote!