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Lawmakers offer Oregon's pioneering law as an option for states trying it during pandemic.

Sen. Ron Wyden and Rep. Earl Blumenauer have introduced a new version of their bill enabling all Americans to have the choice of voting at home.

The legislation by the Oregon Democrats, which they first introduced in 2017, would build on the actions that 30 states took to broaden access and let voters cast their ballots at home for the Nov. 3 presidential election. Close to 50% of ballots nationwide were cast at home, said to be a record for a federal race.

Oregon has conducted all elections by mail since 2000, the first state to do so. Wyden was the first senator to win with mail ballots during a special election in 1996. Washington, Colorado, Hawaii and Utah have followed suit. Other states have gone to no-excuse absentee voting and automatic mailing of ballots during the coronavirus pandemic.

In Oregon, ballots are mailed to voters 14 to 18 days before an election. Ballots must be in the hands of elections officials by 8 p.m. on Election Day. Postmarks do not count, although Gov. Kate Brown has proposed to change state law to allow Election Day postmarks.

Wyden and Blumenauer issued statements Thursday, Jan. 28, upon their introduction of the Vote at Home Act.

Wyden: "Our democracy is stronger when every American can vote, without standing in ridiculous lines or having to take time off work or school to exercise their constitutional rights. To get the big things done that really improve Americans' lives, our country needs the government to represent all Americans.

"Oregonians know that voting at home is a time-tested, secure and accessible way to vote. It's high time the rest of the country had the chance to vote the way we do."

Blumenauer: "The individual right to vote, the cornerstone of our democracy, is under threat in communities across America. Last year we saw a widespread expansion of vote-at-home access as a safe and secure way to participate during the COVID-19 pandemic.

"We should continue to make voting easier, not harder. This important bill would strengthen and clarify the right to vote at home, the most secure and convenient way for voters to exercise the franchise."

Highlights of their bill:

• Promote the ability of voters to vote by mail: All registered voters would receive ballots in the mail weeks before Election Day, allowing them to carefully research candidates and issues well ahead of Election Day to inform their vote.

• Expand options for casting ballots: All registered voters would have the ability to cast their ballot through the mail or a drop-off site. Voters residing in states with in-person, same-day registration would still have the option to vote at a polling station in lieu of voting at home.

• Fund the U.S. Postal Service: The legislation would provide the USPS funding to cover costs associated with mailing ballots both to and from voters in federal elections. This would allow states to save money by transitioning away from polling stations and reduce a major barrier for voters with the federal government absorbing the cost associated with USPS delivery.

• Enact automatic voter registration: States would be required to ensure that each citizen who provides identifying information to the state motor vehicle authority is automatically registered to vote. Voters are given 21 days to opt out if they do not wish to remain registered. (Oregon passed this law in 2015.)

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