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Bill passes to count ballots mailed on Election Day

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PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — Oregonians could mail their ballots up to and on Election Day and have them counted under a bill headed to Gov. Kate Brown.

House Bill 3291 was passed by the state Senate on Thursday by a 16-13 vote.

Sen. Rob Wagner, D-Lake Oswego, told The Oregonian/OregonLive that the measure would help decrease voter confusion.

Currently, ballots that arrive at county elections’ offices after 8 p.m. on Election Day are not counted.

Under the bill, ballots that arrive in the mail up to seven days after an election would be counted, unless their postmark showed that they were mailed after Election Day. If a postmark is missing or unreadable, the bill would direct elections officials to assume the ballot was mailed before to the deadline.

That provision concerned Republicans.

“This is an invitation to fraud,” said Sen. Fred Girod, R-Lyons. “What’s to stop a box of unstamped ballots from going into the clerk’s office?”

Sen. Betsy Johnson, D-Scappoose, joined Republicans and independents in voting against it.

The bill does not change the deadline to return a ballot at a drop box, which will remain 8 p.m. on Election Day. If Brown signs it, the change would take effect starting in 2022.

Oregon Senate Democrats said in a statement the bill aligns Oregon with 17 other states including Washington and the District of Columbia that allow ballots to be accepted if postmarked by Election Day.