The Multnomah County Elections Division was marked by a steady flow of voters on Tuesday, the last day to cast a vote for the 2018 General Election.
As the 8 p.m. deadline neared, more than 338,000 ballots had already been cast, an estimated 62.69 percent. In 2014, the last midterm election, turnout reached 68.59 percent with 302,584 ballots cast. By Wednesday, voter turnout was marked at a record midterm rate at 70.19-percent with more than 378,000 ballots cast -that number is expected to rise as the election is certified on November 26.
The high voter turnout comes as Oregon celebrates the 20th anniversary of vote-by-mail. On Nov. 3, 1998, voters established vote-by-mail as the standard procedure for elections, making Oregon the first state in the United States to conduct elections using the process.
“When it’s elections season and Oregon is the first state to conduct mail-in elections, it’s exciting,” said Girl Scout troop leader Manda Bednarczyk.
Bednarczyk — accompanied by her daughter, Amelia, and roughly 15 Girl Scouts, ages 6 to 8 — toured the Multnomah County Elections Division on Tuesday evening.
The tour was part of the Girl Scouts of America G.I.R.L (or Go-getter, Innovator, Risk-taker and Leader) Agenda. The nonpartisan initiative seeks to inspire, prepare and mobilize girls to “lead positive change through civic action.”
As part of the effort, Bednarczyk signed up her troop for a “Follow the Ballot Tour” to get an up-close look at how ballots are processed at the County elections office.
“I signed up for the tour and by the next morning, all the tours were full,” said Bednarczyk.
The Girl Scouts covered their ears as high-speed sorters sifted and sorted ballots. The troops observed the ballot-sorting and signature verification process, as well as the bipartisan work of the “opening boards” who remove and separate ballots from their envelopes. “They got to watch the ballots being opened up," said Bednarczyk. "They got to watch the observers.”
Girl Scout who complete the tour can complete a step toward receiving civic-oriented merit badges such as the “Inside Government” or the “Behind the Ballot” badge.
Tuesday’s tour was the third so far hosted at Multnomah County Elections.
“Our hope is that, as we make it more accessible, girls will see themselves as participants and be inspired to create positive change in their own communities,” said Lisa Gilham-Luginbill, Program Manager for Girl Scouts of Oregon and Southwest Washington.