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Oregon Republicans Push to Extend Vote-by-Mail Cutoff Date

The proposal could remedy delays in the U.S. Postal Service’s system, which is under distress following new directives last month from its postmaster general.

State Sen. Tim Knopp (R-Bend) announced Aug. 3 that he is crafting legislation that would extend the time voters have to mail their ballots.

Currently, Oregon elections law requires that ballots arrive at county elections offices by 8 pm on Election Day. That typically means they must be mailed by the Thursday prior to Election Day or be dropped off in person.

Knopp is proposing instead that ballots must be postmarked no later than the Saturday before Election Day—effectively giving voters an extra two days and protecting them from unforeseen delays in mail delivery.

This change could prove particularly important at a time when Oregon's vote-by-mail system faces threats. The new postmaster general of the United States, Louis DeJoy, last month proposed major changes to the operations of the U.S. Postal Service that could clog up the mailing system and delay the return of ballots.

USPS workers of Portland told WW they are concerned that DeJoy's directives have already caused delays in the return of ballots for Portland's Aug. 11 special election. These include cutting overtime hours and demanding that if workers gathering mail for delivery run even a minute late, they must leave that mail behind and get it the next day.

The USPS workers urged voters to mail their ballots no later than the Wednesday before Election Day—almost a week—if they want their vote to be counted. And a USPS spokesman said in an email to WW that all voters "must use First-Class Mail or an expedited level of service to return their completed ballots."

Today, postal workers picketed in Northeast Portland.

"I saw 20 feet of undelivered mail sitting on the floor of the Lents post office this morning, after the letter carriers had left for their routes," said Daniel Cortez, a shop steward for Portland's American Postal Workers Union, at the Aug. 5 rally. "And that was mail left from yesterday. In other words, it had been delayed twice."

Knopp's proposal would add a cushion to what is becoming a distressed mailing system under DeJoy's leadership.

"Oregon's vote-by-mail system is an example for the nation, but it needs improvements, such as more security and better access to serve Oregonians," Knopp said. "These improvements to our vote-by-mail system will help ensure rural Oregonians, senior citizens and those concerned about their health during the COVID-19 pandemic have their ballots counted and voices heard."

In a news release Aug. 5, state Rep. Raquel Moore-Green (R-Salem) expressed support for Knopp's proposal. So far, no Democrats have expressed support.

"We must ensure that we are not disenfranchising thousands of voters who mail in ballots during the week prior to Election Day," Moore-Green said. "Even as we celebrate Oregon's 20-year-old vote-by-mail system, we must not become complacent. We must stay mindful of ongoing threats to our voting system and continue to work on improvements in the verification portion of the system so that those eligible and registered to vote in Oregon are able to do so in a safe and protected manner. Oregonians need to feel confident in our voting system."