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Oregon governor pushes for prepaid mail-in ballots

Gov. Kate Brown is pressing Oregon lawmakers to pass a measure paying for prepaid postage on mail-in ballots, a move she says would boost voter turnout in a state that boasts one of the highest electoral participation rates in the country.

Posted: Mar 12, 2019 12:00 PM
Updated: Oct 30, 2019 2:48 PM

By SARAH ZIMMERMAN Associated Press

SALEM, Ore. (AP) — Gov. Kate Brown is pressing Oregon lawmakers to pass a measure paying for prepaid postage on mail-in ballots, a move she says would boost voter turnout in a state that boasts one of the highest electoral participation rates in the country.

"While Oregon's vote by mail system is one of the most innovative ways any state has increased voter access, it's also hobbled by something less modern: the postage stamp," the governor testified on Monday.

California and Washington state have already passed measures requiring election officials to provide prepaid mail ballots.

Oregon became a leader in voting accessibility after switching to a vote by mail system 2000. The state also became the first to implement a robust automatic voter registration system that automatically signs people up to vote when they get a driver's license.

But the governor notes that postage stamp can still act as a "functional barrier" for some people, particularly low-income and young people who are less likely to have stamps.

Currently, voters who can't afford stamps can turn in their ballots for free at their county clerk's office or at a ballot drop box. The United States Postal Office has also said that it will still deliver mail-in ballots without a stamp, and it will leave election offices to pick up the bill.

Brown said that drop boxes can still be a hurdle for people with disabilities and for rural voters who may have to travel great distances to turn in their ballots.

Although the governor has made prepaid ballots a top priority in her budget plan last year, House Speaker Tina Kotek said that the state may not be able to afford it. Legislative budget leaders are recommending a 5 percent cut across nearly all state programs to pay for its Medicaid debt and struggling school system.

"The question is: Will we have money for it at the end of the day?" Kotek told reporters on Monday. "I don't know."

An official from the Secretary of State's Office testified it would cost the state between $1.5 million and $3 million for the prepaid postage, depending on how many voters actually send in the ballots.

Brown, who recently took a trip to Washington, D.C., to champion the state's leadership in voter access, said that the price is worth it and that the state needs to "take further actions" to "maintain a strong democracy."

Oregon Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 206777

Reported Deaths: 2754
CountyCasesDeaths
Multnomah40354614
Washington26781248
Marion23425323
Clackamas18925235
Lane13896164
Jackson11535146
Deschutes1001582
Umatilla859387
Linn560380
Yamhill477879
Klamath477678
Polk399356
Douglas387982
Malheur361463
Josephine359872
Benton326422
Jefferson236839
Coos216637
Columbia191929
Union149824
Wasco144330
Lincoln143021
Crook129223
Hood River121933
Morrow115316
Clatsop10559
Baker101115
Curry70811
Tillamook6604
Grant5507
Lake4678
Harney4339
Wallowa1945
Gilliam801
Sherman671
Wheeler351
Unassigned00

California Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 3808258

Reported Deaths: 63335
CountyCasesDeaths
Los Angeles124761824454
Riverside3016034627
San Bernardino2992894844
San Diego2817493771
Orange2729225112
Santa Clara1201102188
Kern1107821404
Sacramento1076381731
Fresno1029221724
Alameda895921273
Ventura816381031
San Joaquin746861438
Contra Costa70561813
Stanislaus633871069
Tulare49814849
Monterey43831427
San Mateo42646581
San Francisco37256556
Santa Barbara34596455
Solano33707266
Merced32291478
Sonoma30868317
Imperial28813741
Placer23537299
Kings23189247
San Luis Obispo21421261
Madera16632245
Santa Cruz16235208
Marin14200230
Yolo14156212
Butte12659194
Shasta12630233
El Dorado10371116
Napa1002580
Sutter9656113
Yuba648551
San Benito610963
Lassen578424
Tehama573163
Nevada491075
Humboldt446348
Mendocino432150
Tuolumne420771
Amador373947
Lake356345
Glenn243427
Siskiyou239437
Colusa228418
Calaveras220156
Del Norte14568
Inyo143438
Mono12954
Plumas7366
Modoc5585
Mariposa4657
Trinity4225
Sierra1150
Alpine890
Unassigned330
Medford
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Brookings
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