The ballot drop box is having a moment.
Yes, that same white metal bin you've probably confused with a book drop at the library in years past, when Oregonians didn't think twice about sending back their ballots via old-fashioned snail mail. But that was then and this is 2020. With news of cutbacks and molasses-slow service at the post office, voters are turning to trusty ballot drop boxes in droves.
Drop boxes, for the uninitiated, are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week in every Oregon county, many located so you never have to leave your car.
Locally, once a day, two members of the Multnomah County Elections Division (who have sworn an oath to legitimacy) empty each box, transporting the contents back to the elections office. From there, signatures are verified and ballot scanning is allowed to begin—but the results? Those have to wait.
In order to debunk and inform, Portland Monthly spoke with Multnomah County Director of Elections, Tim Scott. “Some folks think that there's an advantage to bringing it back to the elections office,” Scott says. “There’s no advantage—all drop sites are equally secure.”
Security has been a big concern, but Scott says there’s no need to worry, especially since Multnomah County has hired private security to monitor all boxes. “They're doing regular patrols of all the drop sites several times a day,” Scott says. “There's no validity to any of the stories that are saying that vote by mail is unsafe.”
The county is also paying attention to population densities. The more people in a given area, the more chance you’ve got a nearby ballot box. And Multnomah County is expanding past libraries with private partnerships. Now voters have the option to drop off a ballot at locales as disparate as McCoy Park in North Portland, the Regal Cinemas off SE Division and 165th, and the McDonald's in the Hollywood District in NE Portland. (Find a list of official ballot drop sites here.)
So, the drop boxes are doing their part. Are voters doing theirs? Most signs point to "yes.” As of Thursday, 33 percent of Multnomah County voters had turned in their ballot already, comfortably ahead of historical averages. Statewide, about 25 percent of voters have turned in their ballots so far, up from 17 percent for the same time period in 2016.
Oregon turnout Oct 22.— John Horvick (@horvick) October 22, 2020
Because of delays in reporting it is best to look at the previous day's % for year-to-year comparison.https://t.co/clU0ZbUKkc pic.twitter.com/PkrFrkCv8u
For those forsaking the ballot boxes in favor of voting by USPS, it’s important to remember that the postal service is going to be under pressure in the coming days, possibly causing a delay in mailing. If you’re voting by mail, which Scott calls “a really good option,” he advises that “the earlier you can do it, the better. Don’t mail your ballot after the 27th of October.”
For the procrastinators, it's getting down to the wire if you’re planning to use a ballot drop to vote, Scott says. Meaning if you’re in line at 8 P.M. on November 3rd, you’ll be able to cast your ballot. But may we also politely ask, what took you so long?