Submarine ballots, Betsy Brigades chase election deadlines
The Nov. 8 general election is more than 12 weeks away, but Wednesday, Aug. 10, was the deadline to mail "submarine ballots" to some voters.
That's the name of ballots that go to military and overseas voters who won't be able to receive a ballot, cast their votes and get it back to their county clerk in time to be counted. Like those on the USS Oregon attack submarine submerged somewhere in the seven seas. These ballots do not include the newest filings, but write-ins are allowed.
The deadline, which is covered in Oregon Revised Statute 253.565, is just one of many coming and going as the election draws closer. One of the key dates next week will decide if a top candidate for governor goes on the Nov. 8 ballot.
Deadline looms for Johnson
Secretary of State Shemia Fagan's office has said it needs to have petitions seeking to put former state Sen. Betsy Johnson on the Nov. 8 ballot submitted no later than Tuesday, Aug. 16. That will give officials two weeks to make sure the petitions add up.
Johnson, a longtime Democratic state senator from Columbia County, resigned from the Senate and left the Democratic party last year to mount a bid for governor as an unaffiliated candidate.
To do so, state law requires she submit petitions with enough valid signatures to equal 1% of the total vote in the last presidential election.
Based on the 2020 election, Johnson needs 23,743 valid signatures.
Signatures are checked against voter records to invalidate anyone who doesn't qualify as an Oregon voter.
The longtime rule-of-thumb is to turn in 50% more signatures than needed. That's a comfortable buffer to ensure the number thrown out doesn't push the effort under the minimum needed to qualify.
Johnson campaign spokesperson Jennifer Sitton said late last week that the campaign was well on track to far surpass the number needed. Volunteer "Betsy Brigades" are out in force with petitions as part of the "Run, Betsy, Run" campaign.
Johnson supporters were collecting signatures at the Deschutes County Fair, while other campaigns for governor, congress and the Legislature also had booths.
The Johnson campaign confirmed Thursday that it is on pace and will announce plans for events around the petition submission in the near future.
Nov. 8 election
The general election date is Nov. 8. That's when voting stops. But counting votes will go on until Nov. 15.
Under a state law that went into effect this year, mailed ballots postmarked on or before election day will be counted if they arrive at county clerks' offices within one week after Nov. 8.
The new balloting rules were used in the May 17 primary, which was marred by smeared bar codes on ballots in Clackamas County that further delayed final results on key races. One of the most watched was the 5th Congressional District upset win by Democratic challenger Jamie McLeod-Skinner of Terrebonne over incumbent U.S. Rep. Kurt Schrader, D-Canby. Schrader won Clackamas County, but it wasn't enough to flip the overall outcome.
Adding a wrinkle into the math for the general election is that the week after Nov. 8 will include two days with no regular mail service. Not only is Nov. 13 the usual Sunday with no mail pick-up and delivery, but so is Veterans Day, on Friday, Nov. 11.
The cut-off date will remain seven calendar days after election day, with properly postmarked ballots having to arrive by Nov. 15, according to Ben Morris, communications director for the secretary of state.
No ballot with a postmark after Nov. 8 will be counted during the one week period. No ballot, regardless of postmark, will be counted after Nov. 15.
During a briefing in the spring, Fagan said the state works with the U.S. Post Office to aggressively sweep all mailboxes for ballots in the days after a statewide election.
The majority of ballots are mailed in the county where they are to be counted and arrive within the first couple of days after the election.
The most common ballots with a qualifying election day or earlier postmark that arrive later, or sometimes are delayed beyond the one-week deadline, are those mailed outside of the county where the voter lives — or sometimes, the state. These ballots have to go through sorting hubs that can delay delivery.
The Oregon Capital Bureau is news partner of the Pamplin Media Group.
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