Where We Live: Voting by mail in Oregon

Oregon is one of the only states that uses vote-by-mail for every election

Harry Hopkins readies ballots for mailing in Portland, Ore., Thursday, April 27, 2006. Oregon voters will vote by mail in the May 16 primary election.(AP Photo/Don Ryan)
Harry Hopkins readies ballots for mailing in Portland, Ore., Thursday, April 27, 2006. Oregon voters will vote by mail in the May 16 primary election.(AP Photo/Don Ryan)

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Even though election day is tomorrow, many Oregonians have already cast their vote.

That’s because Oregon is one of the only states that uses vote-by-mail for every election. How we cast our ballots is an important part of where we live.

More about voting by mail

Oregon became the first state to go totally vote-by-mail in 1998, when nearly 70% of Oregonians approved ballot measure 60.

“It’s more convenient, it saves a lot of money, it leads to much higher turnout,” said Phil Keisling.

Keisling was Oregon’s Secretary of State when vote-by-mail rolled out and now works at Portland’s Hatfield School of Government.

“We have a proven track record, over 15 years, of consistently beating by 10, 15, 20% of registered voters, what other states are doing in comparable elections,” Keisling said.

Now with 400,000 more eligible voters thanks to automatic DMV registration, Oregon could set a new record in 2016.

“I think we’re going to have a lot more votes cast than ever,” Keisling said. “I think we’ll break 2 million for the first time in our history.”

Two other states, Washington and Colorado, also have vote-by-mail exclusively. Oregon Senator Ron Wyden, the first senator elected by the system, is leading a push to take it nationwide.

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The major push back is potential fraud, but Oregon hasn’t seen that.

“The vast majority of Oregonians don’t care about politics to the level that their willing to risk prison time for it,” Keisling

Part of the savings from not hiring elections workers and setting up polling stations is used for ballot security and verification. The Oregon Secretary of State’s office estimates at least $3 million in annual savings by using vote-by-mail.

“I think our democracy is a lot stronger when a lot more people participate in it,” Keisling said. “And I think that’s the key lesson in Oregon.”