Our Opinion: Prepare to participate in the democratic process
Are you registered to vote?
It may sound like an odd question, considering the last election — the primary — was two months ago, and the next election — the general election — isn't until November.
But time has a habit of passing, and if there's anything 2020 has taught us, it's that events can overtake us faster than we know. Right now, the news is street protests, police violence and viral outbreaks.
Hopefully there are quieter, less deleterious times ahead. But with an economy in turmoil, no sign of an end to the nightly standoffs outside downtown Portland's courthouses, and a chaotic federal response to the coronavirus pandemic, every week seems to bring an unpleasant new plot twist in this wild year.
In other words, now is the perfect time to make sure you are registered to vote.
We're still a month or two away from endorsement season, when our editorial board will question candidates for office throughout Washington County and make our recommendations as to who deserves your vote. So this week, our exhortation comes with no advice on how to cast your ballot. But we do encourage you — and everyone of legal standing and voting age — to make sure you can exercise that fundamental American right.
Fortunately, Oregon makes both registering to vote and the act of voting easy. Just visit sos.oregon.gov/voting. You can find out whether you are registered to vote in Oregon, update your online voter registration, or register yourself to vote if you have an Oregon driver's license, permit or ID card.
As you almost certainly know unless you are new to Oregon or haven't before engaged in the voting process, Oregon uses a secure vote-by-mail system. Voter registrations are cross-checked against public records to ensure they are valid and current. Ballots may be challenged if the signature on the back of the ballot return envelope does not appear to match the voter's signature on file. Cases of voter fraud in Oregon are exceedingly rare, despite the fact that Oregon perennially has one of the highest voter participation rates in the country.
In addition to being easy, voting is free. As of this year, ballot return envelopes in Oregon do not require paid postage, so you can save your stamps for other correspondence. For those who prefer to vote "in person," official ballot drop sites are scattered throughout Washington County, and as long as a ballot is dropped off by 8 p.m. on Election Night, it will be counted.
We won't know for at least three and a half more months who will be sworn in as president on Jan. 20, 2021, or which party will control Congress, or who will constitute the Oregon Legislature, or whether liberals or conservatives will control the Washington County Board of Commissioners.
Between now and then, hundreds of millions of dollars will be spent on local and national advertising for and against candidates and ballot measures. Between now and then, there will be newsflashes both foreseen and unforeseen. Between now and then, you have time to make up your mind as to how you will vote, or whether you will vote (although we think you should).
But you can't play ball if you're not on the field.
If you're feeling helpless, feeling angry or feeling determined, you can empower yourself like nothing else by making sure you are registered to vote. There is no substitute for the peaceful and lawful exercise of democracy.
The ads you see don't vote; the signs you wave don't vote; the social media posts you write don't vote. There's more than one way to have your say in America, but there's only one way to be counted.
Register to vote.
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