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Vote early, track your ballot and make it count

Through two decades of statewide vote-by-mail elections in Oregon, the U.S. Postal Service has always delivered. The reliability of U.S. mail combined with the verification protocols built into the elections process have given Oregon well-earned bragging rights for the innovative simplicity of its voting system. And security? Fraudulent ballots account for only one ten-thousandth of a percentage point, according to the Oregon secretary of state’s office.

Oregonians’ pride in the system helps explain why some of the postal service cutbacks, mail delays and political rhetoric about vote by mail feels so personal. It may seem overly dramatic to view an attack on vote-by-mail as an attack on Oregon. But there are few Oregon institutions as beloved and trusted across the state as vote-by-mail, with secretaries of state from both the Democratic and Republican parties heartily defending its value and credibility.

Despite the cost-cutting and operational changes at USPS, Oregonians should still have faith that vote-by-mail will have the same level of success this year, thanks to the state’s longstanding relationship with the postal service. However, it’s neither foolish nor wrong to look at ways to ensure that voting in what may be a record turnout year occurs with as little drama as possible:

County offices should look to expand access to ballot drop sites. That may be by increasing the number of locations, expanding the hours ballots are accepted or both. Both Multnomah and Washington counties, for instance, have turned boxes at select libraries into 24-hour drop sites and Deschutes County has converted and added drive-through ballot drop sites. (Jackson County added a second Medford drop box at the library.)

Vote early. Certainly, some voters prefer to wait until Election Day to cast their ballots, in the event that late-breaking revelations affect their choices. But those who feel they have the information they need shouldn’t wait until Nov. 3 to deliver their ballot. Sending ballots back early or dropping them off at a ballot box gives voters peace of mind — particularly those who don’t have reliable transportation or are unable to easily get around.

Think twice before handing off a ballot to someone you don’t know. While it’s legal — and sometimes helpful — to give your sealed ballot to canvassers collecting them for drop off, it’s best to do it yourself or give it to someone you trust. In 2018, the Defend Oregon political action committee discovered a box of nearly 100 ballots that it had failed to turn in by election night. The group was fined but that’s little comfort to those Oregonians whose votes were never counted.

Track your ballot. Once voters have sent in their ballots, they can check the ballots’ status by entering their information in the “My Vote” page of the Oregon secretary of state’s voting and elections page. Ideally, all counties would eventually roll out a service like Multnomah County’s, in which voters can sign up for email notifications that their ballot has been received.

Candidates and campaigns should step up their outreach. With so many races and measures on the ballot, voters should be hearing from campaigns now. Lesser-known candidates and ballot measure proponents should bear in mind that the default for many voters is to simply say “no” to people or measures that have done a poor job of explaining themselves.

Ultimately, the responsibility for voting rests with individuals. Check your registration, look for your ballot and make your vote count.