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Early ballots are reserved for certain categories of voters

I’m concerned that my ballot may not arrive in the mail soon enough to return it via mail. I know I can drop it off at a collection box, but not everyone can do that. Can I request that I be mailed a ballot sooner than Oct. 16? Can I go to the clerk’s office and pick up a ballot sooner than Oct. 16? I’m legitimately concerned about slowdowns by the Postal Service because my tax return that was mailed July 6 — due July 15 — was held up by the mail system. I was told that by personnel at the IRS after I received a notice in August that my taxes were still due.

— A very concerned voter

Jackson County Clerk Chris Walker, who is in charge of elections in the county, said early ballots are generally reserved for military and overseas voters, plus absentee voters who will be out of the state.

Federal law requires ballots to be mailed to military and overseas voters 45 days before an election. Those have been sent.

Out-of-state absentee ballots are mailed out 29 days before an election and will go in the mail Monday.

For all other voters, ballots are mailed out no sooner than the 20th day before an election and no later than the 14th day before an election. Those ballots will go in the mail Oct. 16, and voters could start seeing them show up the next day, Walker said.

She said her office asks people to abide by those different voter categories.

Walker said mail-in ballots have already been prepared for voters.

If you go to the county clerk’s office and request a replacement or reissued ballot now, that will trigger the deactivation of that original ballot that is already prepped and ready to be mailed to you.

You could then receive two ballots, one which has been deactivated and won’t count, and another that is valid and will count.

“People will complain and say they got two ballots. People will start complaining on social media and in letters to the editor that we messed up,” Walker said. “Even if you are confused and send both, or you want to pull a fast one and vote twice, we are going to catch that.”

A better strategy is to wait to get your ballot in the mail, fill it out and mail it back using the prepaid postage envelope before Oct. 27. That’s the last day the county clerk’s office recommends mailing back a ballot.

If you don’t trust the mail, or haven’t mailed your ballot before Oct. 27, you can take it to an election drop box at libraries in Medford, Ashland, Phoenix, Central Point, Eagle Point or Rogue River, or at the Jackson County Elections Office, 1101 W. Main St., Medford.

The election drop boxes are open 24 hours a day, seven days a week until 8 p.m. on election night, which is Nov. 3 this year.

Walker said she has confidence the local post office network will continue to be a strong partner on elections in Oregon and Jackson County.

“It works every year for us. This election will be no different,” she said.

There is a large regional mail processing center located here in the county, which helps speed the process, Walker said.

After voters mail in or drop off their ballots, they can check the status of their ballot at oregonvotes.gov/myvote. Once elections workers have received your ballot and verified your signature, your ballot will be listed as accepted or unaccepted on the website.

Unaccepted ballots may have problems like a missing signature or signature that doesn’t match your voter registration signature, so check with the Jackson County Elections Office by calling 541-774-6148 to resolve those issues.

Walker said the postal service has been very responsive to Oregon elections officials, especially in the wake of the Almeda and South Obenchain fires that burned thousands of homes in Jackson County.

If you’ve been displaced and know the address where you will be able to receive mail, add your temporary mailing address at www.oregonvotes.gov/myvote or visit the Jackson County Elections Office.

A displaced voter who is temporarily out of the area can request an absentee ballot at sos.oregon.gov/elections/Documents/SEL111.pdf.

Send questions to “Since You Asked,” Mail Tribune Newsroom, P.O. Box 1108, Medford, OR 97501; or by email to youasked@rosebudmedia.com. We’re sorry, but the volume of questions received prevents us from answering all of them.