Oregon City ballot travels 12,000 miles for mayoral vote
This article with Sept. 19 changes includes updated information about absentee voting and clarifies that students, in addition to military personnel, can register to have their ballots mailed overseas, as long as they register by a deadline that's earlier than registrations for people living in Oregon.
A resident of Oregon City felt it was so important to vote in the special Aug. 23 mayoral election that she asked her father to bring her ballot to her in Europe, where she's an exchange student.
A resident of the McLoughlin neighborhood and Reed College student who is studying language in Italy, she asked Pamplin Media Group not to print her name out of privacy concerns. But she agreed to answer questions from a news reporter about why she thinks there should be no excuse for people not to cast their ballots, even if they're studying abroad.
"The younger generation is the sole party responsible for the future of our communities," she said. "Therefore, it is imperative that we do our part and voice our concerns and beliefs in order to shape the society we wish to have in the future. We have to take action now, not tomorrow or years from now."
Oregon City Commission President Denyse McGriff ended up handily winning the mayoral election with about 80% of the vote against three opponents to become the first person of color and the third woman elected to the position in the city's history. Oregon City's exchange student declined to say for whom she voted.
Oregon law has firmly established the rights of students and military personnel to vote even if they're temporarily residing outside of the state or country. The Uniformed and Overseas Citizens Absentee Voting Act, enacted by Congress in 1986, allows Americans living abroad from any state to register for an absentee ballot to be sent to them.
Deadlines for absentee overseas registrations are earlier than for normal ballots, Sept. 24 for absentee ballots (normal ballot registration deadline is Oct. 16) for the November election.
Oregon City's exchange student said she was lucky that her father already had a trip to Italy scheduled, and her mother could drop off the ballot before the Aug. 23 election day.
Starting from her mailbox in Oregon City, the ballot flew to Montreal before flying on to Rome. From Rome, it traveled by train to Perugia, Italy. A city bus then took her father and the ballot to Perugia's historic city center, where it was signed by the young Oregon City resident, who said she really wanted to vote in the mayoral election.
"I take my responsibility to vote seriously and that's why I made sure that even while abroad, my ballot made it back to Oregon," she said. "I encourage others my age to do the same and make sure to use their position to initiate change."
The Oregon City student had flown to Italy with her mother, who then headed back to OC soon after the father arrived. The ballot then traveled with her mother from Perugia to Florence by train, flew to Munich, flew to Berlin, then traveled by train to Frankfurt.
A couple days later the ballot traveled across Germany by high-speed train to Mannheim, then took a slow city bus to Worms, Germany, then rode to Frankfurt, took a flight to Vancouver, British Columbia, a flight to Portland and an Uber to Oregon City, logging a total distance of about 12,000 miles.
Pamplin Media Group has verified that the Clackamas County Elections Office had received the exchange student's ballot in time for the mayoral election.
This student plans to vote in the upcoming November election as well. Her parents plan to mail her ballot to her in Italy.
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