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.

Confirmed Cases: 4185

Reported Deaths: 153
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Multnomah114259
Marion94925
Washington73417
Clackamas30611
Deschutes1240
Umatilla1163
Linn1159
Polk9812
Lane693
Yamhill697
Jackson650
Benton555
Clatsop450
Klamath440
Malheur320
Coos310
Jefferson300
Douglas270
Wasco231
Josephine231
Hood River160
Columbia160
Lincoln120
Morrow110
Curry70
Union60
Tillamook60
Crook60
Wallowa20
Lake20
Sherman10
Harney10
Grant10
Baker10
Unassigned00

California Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 109895

Reported Deaths: 4144
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Los Angeles537462339
Riverside7486323
San Diego7385269
Orange6100146
San Bernardino5200204
Alameda328995
Santa Clara2731141
San Francisco253241
Kern214538
San Mateo210484
Tulare184484
Fresno171435
Santa Barbara164912
Imperial163427
Contra Costa142637
Sacramento140056
Ventura107833
San Joaquin85834
Kings7353
Stanislaus69928
Sonoma5484
Solano51722
Monterey50910
Marin45014
Merced2837
San Luis Obispo2691
Placer2149
Santa Cruz2122
Yolo21024
Napa1123
Madera1042
Humboldt993
El Dorado900
San Benito872
Del Norte450
Butte440
Sutter432
Nevada411
Shasta374
Mono351
Mendocino300
Yuba301
Lake210
Inyo201
Mariposa161
Glenn160
Calaveras150
Amador100
Siskiyou70
Colusa50
Lassen50
Tuolumne40
Tehama41
Plumas40
Alpine20
Sierra10
Trinity10
Unassigned00
Medford
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