County clerks urge Oregon voters to fill ballots carefully

by Cooper Baskins
An Official Benton County Ballot Drop Box on the corner of Ralph Miller and 26th in between Gill Coliseum and Reser Stadium. Ballots need to be filled out and turned into one of these drop boxes before 8 p.m. on Nov. 3. More Ballot Drop Box locations can be found on Benton County’s website.

Sukhjot Sal, News Contributor

Editor’s Note: This story is a part of the 2020 Elections Issue. The Baro has put together this issue to inform the Oregon State University and greater Corvallis, Ore. communities about the 2020 Elections. This issue will dispel voting myths and include information on local elections, voting methods and tips, candidate profiles, and more.

Correction: The mail-in voting deadline was previously incorrect. This issue has been resolved.

With the deadline for voter registration in Oregon passed, voters need to fill out and return ballots to election offices before 8 p.m. on Nov. 3.

Mail-in ballots need to be postmarked by Oct. 29, in order to be counted in time by voting officials.

James Morales, the appointed Benton County clerk and records and elections department director said drop boxes for ballots will be listed in the voter’s pamphlet, which most voters have already received. If voters have not received their voter’s pamphlet yet, pamphlets are also available on the Benton county elections website.

Morales noted the drop box on Oregon State University’s campus is no longer located in the Valley Library due to COVID-19 shutdowns, but has been moved outside of Gill Coliseum.

“That’s going to be 24-hour access and has a larger capacity [and] we’ll be picking that up daily, after the ballots go out,” Morales said.

Ballots will be mailed out in the next few days, so people should receive them by early next week. If they do not receive them by that time, Morales urges people to contact their election office.

“Post marks don’t count, we do have to receive [the ballot] by 8 p.m. on Election Day, that’s why we ask [you], after a certain point, to no longer use the postal service—you begin to use drop boxes to get them back to us,” Morales said. “And make sure they’re official drop boxes.”

Steve Druckenmiller, Linn County clerk, said it is important that voters sign their envelope, because they cannot count it until it is corrected. He strongly suggests not entrusting your ballot to anybody you do not know and clearly trust. 

“Mail it in yourself, take it to a drop box yourself, or take it to the elections office,” said Druckenmiller. “You can put a ballot in any drop box anywhere in the state. You know it’ll get to the right office to be counted, so you can have confidence with that.”

However, he clarified that when you vote by mail in Oregon, no ballot is ever thrown away. He also said if voters make a mistake on their ballot or somehow ruin the ballot entirely, the election office can supply a replacement.

“If there is some reason why we can’t count your ballot, like you didn’t sign it, or your signature doesn’t match—we contact the voter,” Druckenmiller said. “And we let them know: there’s a way of correcting that. And if they do that, then we can count the ballot.”

Shelly Murphy, a director and community planning chair on the Board of Directors of the League of Women Voters of Corvallis, said via email that voting for candidates for office at all levels of government is important if you have a democracy.

Oregon instituted vote-by-mail 20 years ago, Murphy said via email, and because the population of much of eastern Oregon is very spread out, it took a long time to get all the ballots in and counted. 

“With vote-by-mail, the ballots are sent out 20-days before election day. These ballots must be received by County Clerks by the election date,” Murphy explained. “Thus, signatures are verified and votes are counted promptly, and results released quickly.”

Morales said voting, in any capacity, is important so that people have a voice in their democracy. 

“You’re participating in determining who will be representing them in the different levels of government, as well as different measures that might affect their property taxes and other local laws,” Morales said.

Murphy also urges voters to take their beliefs into consideration when choosing state and national representatives.

“One votes for people who share your values and goals so that those governing will make laws to make sure that those goals are supported,” Murphy said. “For example, I want everyone to have access to health care, to protect the environment, to be taxed fairly. Therefore, I vote for candidates who will work toward these goals.”

Druckenmiller also said voting by mail in Oregon is very easy and the registration system is very comprehensive.

The Benton county elections website houses all information on elections, mail-in ballots, and drop-off sites in Benton County. The Secretary of State website lists drop box locations for all counties in Oregon.

“Please—every clerk will tell you this—read and follow the instructions that we sent along with the ballot,” Druckenmiller said. “Please don’t believe what you hear on social media, good or bad. It can be made up and if you have any questions about anything, you call the elections office, whether you’re Benton County or wherever you got your ballot from.”

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