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Election funding request is reasonable

Jackson County Clerk Chris Walker has asked the Oregon Secretary of State’s Office for funding to pay for election equipment and security measures. The request is reasonable and should receive favorable consideration.

The security measures — bullet-resistant glass and panels in the public-facing portion of the elections department on West Main Street in Medford — are troubling but prudent. The idea that elections workers should need protection from gunfire while doing work essential to our democratic system is a sad commentary on the times we live in.

But elections officials in other states were threatened with violence after the 2020 election from people apparently upset at the outcome. It is reasonable to take steps to protect election workers, and state money should help with those efforts.

Jackson County’s request also includes automated equipment to help verify voters’ signatures on ballot envelopes — a process now done by election workers manually.

New equipment already purchased includes postmark scanners to verify that ballots were postmarked by election day. A new law taking effect in the May primary allows ballots to be counted if they are postmarked by the deadline, a change from previous rules that counted only ballots that were received at the Elections Department or placed in an official drop box by 8 p.m. on Election Day.

We were not fans of that change, arguing that Oregon elections have been among the nation’s most accessible and secure for two decades and voters were well aware of the deadline. But the law now requires elections officials to count ballots postmarked in time even if they arrive after Election Day. So equipment to assist in that process is a reasonable expense.

The Oregon Legislature allocated about $2 million for election equipment last year, most of which remains unspent. Jackson County is seeking $165,000 of that money. That’s not an unreasonable request from the state’s sixth-largest county.

Walker says she expects the money to be available in July, after the primary but before the November general election.

Regardless of how much help the county gets, voters can be confident that elections will continue to be well run and secure. Oregon’s vote-by-mail system uses paper ballots, not computers, so there is a permanent record of votes cast. The system has worked admirably for more than 20 years, and remains a model other states would do well to emulate.