Wait's over. It's time. Oregonians will begin receiving ballots in the mail three weeks from now. Among the choices facing Portlanders: contested races for Oregon secretary of state, Portland mayor and a City Council seat. Starting this week, WW will ask the candidates questions intended to clarify their priorities, draw distinctions between their values, and establish how they view the office they're seeking.
Oregon Secretary of State
The winner of this contest will oversee elections, even as threats to Oregon's vote-by-mail system multiply. Democrats and Republicans are both alarmed about the integrity of the system—but for different reasons. Democrats fear President Donald Trump's undermining of the U.S. Postal Service endangers the delivery of mailed ballots, while Republicans (whose constituents are typically rural) fear hardships for voters driven from their homes by wildfire. We asked the candidates:
Do you believe all Oregon votes will be counted in the November election?
Sen. Shemia Fagan (D-East Portland):
"I'm confident every vote will be counted. Oregon has blazed this trail for decades, and we have a long-established and very secure system. I'm proud to be the only candidate in this race to support automatic voter registration and prepaid postage. Frankly, I think the biggest threat we face this election isn't any problem with our proven and tested vote-by-mail system but from misinformation that is designed to undermine voter confidence, spread conspiracy theories and depress turnout. As an elected official—and certainly as a candidate for secretary of state—I think it's important to always provide accurate information on voting and ballot security."
Sen. Kim Thatcher (R-Keizer):
"I have every confidence that all the votes will be counted but as secretary of state, I would strive for improvements in our current system. Allowing postmarks on mail ballots at least on the Saturday before, if not on election day, would help ensure every Oregon voter's ballot will count. Allowing postmarked ballots that come in after election day has worked well for many years in Washington state, and I would like to see if we can explore that system for Oregon.
"I'm also concerned about Oregonians who've been displaced from recent wildfires, potentially jumping through hoops to get their ballot. Many of these voters had their mailboxes burn down along with their homes and are now transient—moving from one location to another over the next several weeks. It's helpful to know there are ways to work with elections officials to have ballots mailed to temporary addresses. However, I've pushed for those officials to spread the word so voters know they can go to any county clerk's office in Oregon to have their hometown ballot printed, vote on that ballot, and it will get back to their county elections office at home."