Douglas County’s ballots traveled by truck Thursday from Bend, where they’d been printed, to the U.S. Postal Service in Springfield.
The truck was met by Douglas County elections officials, who unlocked it, and the ballots were brought into the post office stacked on pallets. Then the ballots, about 83,000 of them, were mailed to Douglas County residents.
Most voters should receive their ballots Friday through Monday, Douglas County Clerk Dan Loomis said.
Ballots can be returned by mail, but it’s not the date sent or the postmark that counts toward making the voting deadline. Ballots must be received by the Douglas County Clerk’s office by 8 p.m. election day, Nov. 3.
Democratic and Republican party officials voiced concern that Postal Service cutbacks could mean mail service delays, and urged voters to turn in their ballots quickly this year.
Douglas County Republican Party Chairperson Valynn Currie said the Republicans recommend voters turn in their ballots in person at the Douglas County Clerks Office in the Douglas County Courthouse.
“We want them to go to the courthouse rather than just go through the mail, and that’s because the mail has been very slow and unreliable in the last six months, so that’s our advice to the voters,” Currie said.
She also urged voters using drop boxes to make sure they’re dropping ballots in an official county ballot box.
Democratic Party Chair Alana Lenihan said in a statement that voters should vote right away when they receive their ballots.
“Fill out your ballot and send it back the next day. If you’re worried about your ballot getting lost in the mail, take it to one of the official drop boxes,” she said.
Loomis said sending ballots by mail can increase safety from the COVID-19 pandemic. However, those mailing their ballots need to do so before Oct. 27 to ensure they arrive on time. Voters returning ballots after that time can still use the county’s drop sites right up through Election Day.
Loomis also said Oregon’s vote-by-mail system is secure.
“The security and integrity of the Oregon vote-by-mail system has been proven over and over for 22 years, and the perceived weaknesses in new vote-by-mail systems just don’t apply to Oregon,” he said. “We’ve paved all those rough spots out of the road already.”
Loomis said the county’s boxes are securely locked, and paid elections staff members are the only ones who have the keys. They’re designed so that no one can reach inside to grab ballots previously dropped in the boxes.
They’re also fireproof. They contain a dry fire suppressant chemical that releases if the temperature inside the box gets too high.
Ballots are counted using a machine that is not hooked up to the internet, meaning they cannot be hacked, Loomis said.
Voters must place their ballots in the envelope provided, and sign the envelope. It’s important they also use the same signature on their driver’s licenses and voter registrations. No postage stamp is necessary this year.
Loomis said the primary election drew about 40% turnout but he’s expecting about 80% turnout this general election.
Of the ballots sent out Thursday, the largest number went to the county’s 33,308 registered Republican voters. Nonaffiliated voters make up the second largest group, with 27,084. Democrats come in third, with 17,263 voters. There are 4,085 Independent Party voters, and the remaining ballots were split up between small groups of Libertarians, Pacific Greens and members of other minor parties.
Voters can check the status of their ballots at oregonvotes.gov/myvote.