State Watch

Mail-in voting in Oregon has worked for decades, says Republican

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Voting by mail has worked for decades in Oregon, said both the state’s current and former secretary of state, suggesting it would likely work nationally as a way of ensuring the vote goes forward safely during the coronavirus pandemic.

“I think after 20 years, we’ve proven that our system is very secure and voters love it. The voters voted it in, they’ve never made an attempt to vote it out. I think they’re happy with it and I think it’s a 20-year history of success,” said Secretary of State Bev Clarno (R).

Phil Keisling, a Democrat who served as secretary of state from 1991 to 1999, said the state’s vote-by-mail system began in the mid-1980s, when numerous local elections included ballots mailed to voters.

After Sen. Bob Packwood (R) resigned in 1995, a special election was called, which Keisling said was an opportunity to implement a vote-by-mail system.

“[A] special election could be done in this manner, and we had the nation’s first ever federal election using all mailed-out ballots to everybody and turnout went through the roof. Participation hit 66 percent,” Keisling told KGW8, a local NBC affiliate.

Three years later, in 1998, voters approved the method for all elections in a referendum, voting 69 percent in favor of the option, according to the network. Oregon is one of five states with full vote-by-mail systems, which have been touted by proponents as evidence it can be successfully implemented.

“It’s very secure, its very cost-effective, and it’s extremely accessible to our voters. It’s one of the reasons we have one of the highest voter turnouts in the entire country. Because folks like to vote from their kitchen tables. It’s very, very accessible,” Gov. Kate Brown (D) said.

Voting by mail has been an increasingly hot topic due to the coronavirus pandemic.

In Wisconsin, voters took part in a primary last week despite the health risks. Fewer workers showed up to man the polls, and images of long lines at Milwaukee precincts were broadcast across the nation.

President Trump opposes mail-in voting, arguing it could lead to voter fraud, even though he himself voted by mail in the Florida Republican primary earlier this year.

Keisling said opponents should view it as preferable to the alternative in a pandemic.

“Be very clear-eyed that the alternative is one in which you will be flooded with absentee ballot requests from voters who have figured out this may be the only way they can vote without endangering their lives, and they’re going to demand it,” he told KGW8.

Tags Coronavirus Donald Trump Oregon vote-by-mail

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