This congressman wants you to bike to the ballot box

Anne Wernikoff

Rep. Earl Blumenauer is one of the biggest bike enthusiasts in Congress, pushing cycling as a solution for everything from climate change to obesity.

But this weekend, the Oregon Democrat will use biking to promote another cause close to his heart: getting out the vote.

Blumenauer — who can usually be seen sporting a colorful bow-tie and bike pin — is leading a “bike your ballot” initiative on Sunday in Portland, so voters can personally deliver their ballots in a fun and “uniquely Portland” way.

“It’s kind of an indirect way to spotlight burning calories instead of fossil fuel,” Blumenauer told The Hill. “Any excuse to come together for a bike event.”

Oregon became the first state to conduct elections exclusively by mail, which Blumenauer said is far more secure and convenient than traditional polling places.

But the lawmaker lamented that with ongoing service and financial woes at the U.S. Post Office, “some of the service is not quite over night, and it can take two or three days.”

Hundreds of voters in northwest Ohio had to be reissued their absentee ballots after the originals got hung up in a Michigan post office earlier this month, according to the Columbus Dispatch.

Blumenauer’s bike event will offer voters the opportunity to make sure their own ballots — or the signed and sealed ballots of their friends or families — are delivered to a secure drop box at the local County Elections Office in a timely manner.

The lawmaker is expecting upwards of 100 people, and said buzz around the 1.5-mile bike ride is growing.

“It might be a chance to take a little break, hop on a bike and have some fun,” Blumenauer said.

The event could also raise awareness for the active bike community in Portland, which is already considered one of the top cities for cycling in the U.S. — a distinction Blumenauer would like to see back in D.C. 

The quirky lawmaker, who has biked to the Capitol for 20 years in rain or shine, says he’s seen improvements in the District over time, but said more work needs to be done across the country. 

He founded the Congressional Bike Congress and has crafted numerous bills related to cycling issues, including legislation to make sure federal regulators keep bikers in mind when creating safety standards for road projects.

But when pressed on whether he’s encouraged fellow caucus members to lead “bike your vote” initiatives in their own communities, Blumenauer admitted he hasn’t — though said he’s bookmarking the idea for the next election. 

“Good point,” he said. “We won’t make that mistake again.” 

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