Voter turnout is running high throughout the Mid-Columbia, a reflection of acute concerns over ballot security throughout the U.S.
“Full steam ahead and things are going as planned,” as Wasco County Clerk Lisa Gambee put it Monday. Turnout is at 42 percent so far.
Yet the message number one at this date is: If you live in Oregon, don’t mail in your ballot.
It might not make it in time.
In Washington, a Nov. 3 postmark is okay, but take care to make sure that the Postal Service processes it by that date; if mailed too late on Nov. 3, it runs the risk not being postmarked until Nov. 4, invalidating the ballot.
Best bet: If you have yet to cast your vote in the Nov. 3 General Election, deliver it by hand to your county’s elections office or drop box sites in outlying communities. The sooner you vote, the better, elections officials say; no votes will be counted until 8 p.m. Nov. 3, but this is the time elections staff are busy certifying ballots for eligibility and getting them ready to run through the counting machines on election night.
“Things are really hectic here, with new registrations and requests for replacement ballots, we are seeing really high volume. It will be a very busy next two weeks,” said Brenda Sorenson, Klickitat County Clerk, who reported that 23 percent of the county’s 15,982 voters had cast their ballots by noon Oct. 26. Another 1,000 or so ballots had been turned in, so the turnout figure will rise once those signatures are certified, according to Sorenson.
In Oregon, postmarks do not count — they never have — to ensure a ballot gets tabulated. Hand-deliver it now, and you can call the Elections office to arrange for curbside pickup.
With turnout at 46 percent in Hood River, the ballot boxes have been well-used but are emptied twice a day, to avoid a repeat of the overflowing that the public reported on the first weekend of voting, Oct. 16-17.
“We empty the box here multiple times a day and over the weekend we empty the box twice a day,” Clerk Brian Beebe said. “Cascade Locks is checked frequently, but no set schedule. We didn’t have any issues with boxes this last weekend. The turnout was much lower than the prior weekend. We are dealing with lots of calls and emails, but in person traffic is down.”
Other key reminders:
Turn in your ballot in time, and follow all balloting instructions.
Sign the ballot envelope on the line provided, and only sign your own ballot.
County Elections and Secretary of State websites will provide voting results starting at 8 p.m. on Nov. 3.
Here are the numbers for Wasco County as of noon Oct. 26; figures for all counties include ballots dropped off over the weekend, but not all those received by mail Oct. 26:
As of Oct. 26 in Wasco County: 7,560 of the 18,403 eligible voters — 41.47 percent — have turned in their ballots, according to Gambee.
That compares in 2016 to 25.35 percent of the 17,077 eligible voters turning in their ballot eight days prior to the election.
For Hood River County, 7,295 voters out of 15,831 eligible had voted as of noon Oct. 26 — compared to 4,576 (34 percent) in 2016 by the same point.
Peak dates in Hood River County so far were Oct. 19-20, with 1,600 and 1,612 turned in; the rate was just under 1,300 the next two says, 836 on Oct. 23 and 566 on Oct. 26.
In Wasco County, Gambee said that drop box management is going well.
“We empty the Fifth Street drop box once a day on Saturday and Sunday, and at least twice a day on weekdays. The Maupin drop box is monitored by the City of Maupin staff, even on weekends. Their ballots were picked up last Friday and will be picked up again on this Friday. We have a ballot collection event on Monday, Nov. 2 from 7 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. so we can collect ballots for residents on the north side of the Warm Springs Reservation.”
She said that at the Elections office in The Dalles, “We are seeing people come all the way to our office to drop off their ballot, but that’s not really new. What is new is the heavy, early returns.”