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Voting while displaced is easy, but up to you

For Jackson County residents who lost their homes in the recent wildfires, making sure they can vote on Nov. 3 may not be at the top of their priority list. Securing necessities, dealing with insurance companies and basic survival come first. But help is available with the state’s mail-in ballot system as well — as long as voters take the initiative.

The good news is, ballots won’t be mailed until Oct. 16, so there is plenty of time to make sure you get one wherever you happen to be staying.

The Postal Service will not forward ballots, so the county Elections Department needs to have your new address or the address of a family member or friend who can received mail on your behalf. If you go online to www.oregonvotes.gov/myvote, you can add a temporary mailing address, and your ballot will be sent there.

No internet access? Visit the county Elections Department in person at 1101 West Main St., or pick up a paper voter registration form at a post office location, your local city hall, DMV offices or public libraries.

This year, ballots will come with prepaid postage, so no stamp is necessary. Just fill it out, sign the envelope and drop it in the mail.

But — as always — don’t put off mailing your ballot, because under Oregon law, ballots must arrive at the county Elections Department or be placed in one of the county’s secure drop boxes by 8 p.m. on Election Day or they will not be counted. Postmarks don’t count.

A note about election security: You may have heard allegations that voting by mail is more prone to fraud than in-person voting. That’s certainly not true in Oregon, which has conducted every election by mail for 20 years with virtually no problems.

Even a larger-than-usual number of voters changing their mailing addresses because they lost their homes doesn’t increase the likelihood of voting irregularities. That’s because under Oregon’s tried-and-true system, a trained election worker compares the signature on the envelope of every ballot with the signature on file for that voter. If the signatures do not match, the ballot is set aside and the voter is notified to come in and verify their identity. The signature, not the voter’s address, is what’s important, and ensures each voter casts only one ballot.

Oregon makes it about as easy as it can be to take part in choosing your elected representatives. But voters do need to take responsibility for telling the Elections Department where to send their ballot.

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