Voters flock to submit ballots after receiving them in the mail
Voting for the presidential election is under way in most of the nation's states. Although ballots only went out last week, thousands of Oregonians already have voted and returned their ballots to county elections offices.
Traffic was nonstop last week at election offices across the state as voters hurried to make sure their vote was counted, even though they then had more than two weeks to turn in their ballots.
"We are seeing huge volumes of voted ballots back in our office," Yamhill County Clerk Brian Van Bergen said.
Plenty of people were out taking selfies with their ballots — proof that they turned it in.
"I was dropping this for a friend who doesn't want to leave the house right now, so I was taking a picture to show her that was done. I did take a picture when I dropped mine to post on social media, to show everyone how quick and easy it is to vote in Oregon," one voter said.
Oregon stands in stark contrast to what is under way in several other states — including Georgia, Texas and Ohio — where people have been waiting for hours to cast their ballots in person. Scenes like that won't play out here in local communities. Oregon was the first state to distribute ballots by mail to all registered voters. And it's been that way for more than 20 years.
Even though Oregon return envelopes are postage-paid this year for the first time, a lot of voters are leery about mailing them back. They are taking no chances to protect their marked ballots and are making sure it arrives safely at a drop box.
The security of submitted ballots is of paramount importance in Yamhill County as well.
"We have made a number of adjustments, but we don't discuss those publicly," Van Bergen said. "It is considered part of our overarching ballot security plan to keep those details confidential. What I do say is that it is always faster, more secure and cheaper for voters to use our official drop boxes than the USPS."
Officials say voters should send in or drop off their ballot as quickly as possible. The last day to safely mail a ballot is Oct. 27. Ballots are due back in person, at a drop box or county election office by 8 p.m. Nov. 3, which is Election Day. Election officials stress postmark dates do not count for ballots in Oregon.
And as for taking advantage of the postage-paid envelope, there are thousands of Oregon voters who already have done that just 72 hours after they got their ballots.
Van Bergen warned voters to get information about the election from reliable sources.
"Don't get your election news from some random person on social media," he said. "Way too many people chime in with 'answers' to questions that may be true in other states, but not true in Oregon."
Included is disinformation about voters with a signature that has been challenged during the process. The voter will receive written notification of the issue and has 14 days after the election to verify his or her signature. Also, in Oregon the secrecy sleeve is optional.
"They are for the voter's comfort," Van Bergen said. "They are not required."
Yamhill County began checking signatures on Oct. 21, then will begin opening and processing the ballots on Oct. 28. At that point the ballots will be scanned and all the write-ins will be adjudicated to confirm their veracity. The clerk's office will not begin counting the ballots, however, until after the election night deadline.
"We are anticipating that we'll get through most of the ballots on Election Night, but unlike previous elections, we will likely go home by 2 a.m. without finishing all the ballots in our building," Van Bergen said. "That is solely dependent on how many we can process up until that point. We can only fit four opening boards (teams of two workers each) in our building, when we normally have eight for a presidential general election."
As of Oct. 21, Yamhill County had 73,527 active registered voters. The 2004 general election, which saw Barack Obama win out over challenger John McCain, represents the high-water mark for ballots submitted in Yamhill County with 86.6 percent of the county's then 48,938 voters submitting ballots. Second was the 2008 election with 84.4 percent of the county's 51,868 voters submitting ballots.
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