Oregon lawmaker worries some mailed votes may arrive late
SALEM, Ore. (AP) — Voters in Oregon mail in their ballots or leave them in official boxes, but a Republican state lawmaker said Friday more mailed votes may arrive past deadline because of U.S. Postal Service cutbacks that have slowed mail delivery in rural — and primarily Republican — areas.
Sen. Brian Boquist wrote to Elections Director Steve Trout on Friday, saying he’d like to know how many late ballots arrive at county clerks’ offices after the 8 p.m. Tuesday deadline.
Boquist said that after vote-by-mail was adopted in 1998, completed ballots mailed in his hometown of Dallas, Oregon, were sorted at the local post office and were usually delivered to the county clerk’s office to be counted the next day.
Now, it can take several days, since the mail is sent to postal facilities in Portland to be sorted, causing some ballots to arrive in county clerks’ offices after the deadline.
“This disenfranchises the voters,” Boquist said, adding that ballots mailed from Portland — a heavily Democratic area — have less risk of arriving late in the mail.
Boquist suggested Oregon might have to move to a system where ballots postmarked before the deadline are valid, like tax returns.
Deb Royal, spokeswoman for top election official Secretary of State Dennis Richardson, said voters have been strongly urged to mail ballots early or use drop boxes. It would be up to the Legislature to change the rules, she said.
Elections officials in the two counties in Oregon that still have postal service hubs — Multnomah and Clackamas, both in the Portland area — are already taking measures to reduce the risk of ballots arriving late.
Those county elections officials visit those postal sorting facilities and pick up all ballots that are available at the 8 p.m. Tuesday deadline, mark those ballots as received on time and distribute them to the appropriate counties for processing later in the week.
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