Contacts: Tim Scott or Eric Sample, 503-988-3720
Within a matter of weeks, county, state and federal officials declared emergencies to respond to the public health threat of COVID-19. And with those declarations came the closure of schools, businesses and, with the exception of essential needs, most daily life outside of the home.
Oregon Gov. Kate Brown’s “Stay Home, Save Lives” order is meant to do just that — it requires Oregonians to make crucial changes and sacrifices in their lives to slow the spread of COVID-19.
But even with the Governor’s call for a dramatic shift, a few important routines will stay the same. Thanks to Oregon’s well-established vote-by-mail system, the May 19 primary election won’t be moved, and “the right to vote and our system of voting won’t change,” said Tim Scott, Multnomah County Elections Director.
“We’re asking voters — outside of essential needs — to stay home, stay safe, and when you get your ballot in the mail, vote early,” Scott said. “This year, voters no longer have to pay for postage to return their ballots by mail so it’s an excellent opportunity to vote without leaving home.”
Here’s what you need to know
COVID-19 continues to pose great challenges to Oregonians’ usual way of doing business. But the Department of Homeland Security has designated elections systems as critical infrastructure — the same characterization given to the nation’s dams, energy resources and transportation systems. That means elections business will continue in the midst of the COVID-19 crisis.
Multnomah County Elections is preparing to print ballots and mail them to voters. Those ballots will still be mailed on schedule starting April 29.
Other Important dates:
Friday, April 3: military and overseas ballots will be mailed.
Monday, April 6: absentee ballots will be available.
Voters who need an absentee ballot should complete an absentee ballot request form, which can be found on the Elections website. Forms can be returned via email at email@example.com or by mail to the Elections Office, 1040 S.E. Morrison St., Portland, OR 97214. Voters with questions should call 503-988-VOTE.
April 20: out-of-state ballots will be mailed
April 22-25: voters' pamphlets will be mailed to all residential households by the Oregon Secretary of State's Office.
April 28 is the voter registration and party change deadline. Nonpartisan candidates and state and local measures will be on every ballot. But voters who wish to vote in a major party’s closed primary election must be registered as a member of that party by April 28, 2020, in order to do so.
It’s easy to check your voter information from the comfort of your own home by visiting: oregonvotes.gov/myvote. Voters can also update their information at the same site with an Oregon driver’s license or ID card.
Services are still available to voters
“While our doors may be physically closed for a certain amount of time, we are still here to serve the public and will stay nimble in the ways that we do that,” said Scott.
Many resources are already available online and over the phone — such as voter registration and absentee ballots. Call 503-988-VOTE or visit the website at mcelections.org for more information.
“There are obviously challenges but we are working hard and will continue to provide the resources the public needs to vote — that includes access to language resources and access to services for voters who may have disabilities.”
As voters receive ballots in the mail, elections officials ask that you vote early if you can. And thanks to prepaid postage legislation passed in 2019 — a stamp is no longer needed. Multnomah County voters have until May 14 to safety mail back their ballot for the May 19 Primary Election.
“Vote-by-mail naturally lends itself to physical distancing,” said Scott. “We’re asking voters to stay home, stay safe and vote by mail, when you get your ballot.”
Voters can also sign up to track their ballot and get a virtual “I Voted” sticker. The virtual sticker can also be shared on social media, once a ballot is cast. Multnomah County voters can sign up by visiting multnomah.ballottrax.net.
“This election cycle, it will be especially meaningful to share that sticker,” said Multnomah County Chair Deborah Kafoury.
“It’s a way we can stay connected while staying apart. The right to vote and to see our votes matter has to survive this current virus. It’s essential.”