Voting in Oregon: Registration and Candidate Research
In Oregon, voters need to register (or update their registration!) by the 21st day before an election. This year, because the election falls on November 3rd, the registration deadline is October 13th.
How to Register
Voters who are registering for the first time in Oregon (either who have never been registered before, or who have previously been registered in another state) have two options when getting set up to vote in Oregon. The first option is to go to your county election office and fill out a form in person. This option may be impacted by office closures due to COVID 19 so be sure to call your local office before making the trip to make sure they are open. You can find a full list of county election offices and their contact info here.
The second option for new Oregon voters is to go to the Secretary of State’s website to fill out the form. With this option, although the form is filled out online, you will still need to print the form, sign it and mail it in (or hand deliver it) to your county elections office. The registration needs to be postmarked by October 13th, so we recommend putting it in the mail a couple of days early to account for processing and pick up times at blue mailboxes. Pay special attention to your signature when registering to vote in Oregon. The signature on the back of your ballot when you mail it in is the mechanism used to authenticate your vote. If your signature is still evolving, or you don’t have a set style which you use every time, make sure to take note (or take a picture) of the signature you use on your registration so you can be sure your signature is the same style on your ballot so your vote is counted.
If you have been evacuated or lost your home as a result of the recent fires, please see these resources on the Secretary of State’s website to learn how you can ensure your ability to vote without having a set address.
Updating or Checking your Registration
Because we vote by mail in Oregon, if you have moved since the last election, you will need to update your voter registration. This also must be done by the October 13th deadline so that your ballot will be sent to the correct address. In order to check your registration, use the handy My Vote tool on the Secretary of State’s website. If you are currently registered to vote in Oregon, you can update your address or change your party affiliation online using this tool. Oregon does have closed party primaries for national and state races, so if primary elections are important to you, make sure you are registered to the party whose primary you’d like to participate in. All voters registered to any party (or with no party affiliation at all) will be able to vote for whoever they choose, regardless of affiliation, in general elections.
Vote By Mail
Oregon has been a vote by mail state for decades, with local elections moving to the system in the late 1980’s and the state and federal elections moving to vote by mail in 1995. This system means we have better voter turnout here in Oregon compared to the country as a whole. For example, in the 2004 presidential election, the national voter turnout was 55%, but in Oregon it was 86%. We also have the luxury of taking our time to research candidates and make decisions in the comfort of our homes, without waiting in lines and having to choose in a voting booth.
You have two options when submitting your ballot in Oregon. You can mail in your ballot to your county elections office. The address should be listed with your ballot return materials or you can find it here. When mailing in your ballot you must use a stamp, and it must be received (not postmarked!) by 8:00pm on election day. This means the last day it is recommended to mail your ballot this year is October 28th (vote early!). The other option is to use a ballot drop box. These are placed around the state, usually at public buildings like libraries, schools, and other government offices. Find your closest drop box here, and know that this page is updated 20 days before the next election.You may use a ballot drop box (no stamp required!) up until 8:00pm on election day.
Finding information about races and candidates
There is a lot of information about candidates and measures available. Much of this information could prove false or skewed under close scrutiny, so voters should carefully check their sources when considering election information. Here are some resources from the Secretary of State where voters can find the first hand information from candidates and ballot measure campaigns.
Every Oregon voter is mailed an official state voters guide at the address where they are registered to vote. This all-encompassing document contains candidate statements submitted for every race, and descriptions of ballot measures from proponents and opponents of the issue at stake. This information is furnished by the candidate themselves, or the official ballot measure campaigns. In the case of ballot measures, arguments in favor and against can be filed by citizens or groups through official channels. In addition to the printed version, you can find the voter guide online on the Secretary of State’s website.
To check who is running in any given election, and find more information like their official campaign website to read about their platform, voters can check the public filings through the Secretary of State website. This will point you toward more information about the candidates and measures. However, keep in mind, these campaign websites are still written with the goal of winning the election.
If you are looking for information about an incumbent candidate, in the case of state and federal officials, you can also easily access their voting record online. To look up the voting record of any bill that has passed through the Oregon Legislature, use this helpful guide on the legislature’s website. You can also find out who donated money to any candidate or campaign through the Oregon Secretary of State website portal here.
For U.S. Representatives, check their official House of Representatives profile, as most include their voting record located under their legislative issues tab. Most U.S. Senators do not have votes listed on their official profile, but voters can find the record of any given piece of legislation that passes through that chamber here.
County level information for commissioners can be found in the minutes of County Commission meetings. To find these, go to your county’s website and under the Commission/Government section these meeting minutes should be displayed. Although it can be burdensome to look through all of this information, if you care a lot about a particular issue, finding out how your lawmaker voted on it can give you the information you need to make an informed choice.
There are a lot of other sites out there that offer analysis or commentary on candidate records, and the intentions of candidates or measures. Because of the proliferation of misinformation on the internet, we recommend researching sources and paying attention to who is funding these efforts when considering information. Voting is critical to a functioning democracy, and we hope this helps all Oregonians find the information about the issues they care about to make considered choices.
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