Jeff Mapes on the end of Saturday delivery and Oregon’s Vote by Mail system

Jeff Mapes, the dean of political reporters in Oregon (Jeff–“dean” in this context refers to your influence not your age!), has an interesting column on how ending Saturday mail delivery could impact Oregon’s vote by mail system.

Director of State Election Steve Trout rightly notes that Oregonians are not supposed to try to mail their ballots on Saturday anyway–the state urges voters to put them into the mail no later than Friday.

The problem arises not only among those voters who don’t realize this, but among others who don’t realize the last time for pickup at mailboxes and for those voters who live in rural counties and who don’t have easy access to drop boxes at libraries, other locations, and the county elections office.

But the problem could not just turn on urban/rural.  Compare, for example, the number of drop boxes in Multnomah County, which provides more than two dozen drop boxes distributed throughout the county for their 367,992 voters ( a Google Map of drop box locations in Multnomah County) to the  two locations provided by Clackamas County for their 190785 voters (perhaps Clackamas County provided more outdoor drop boxes for the 2012 election, but I can’t find any reference to this on their website).

I have been fielding a lot of inquiries about early voting after the 2012 election, and one of my pieces of advice is to make sure, as much as feasible, that all voters have equal access to the polling place, whether that be the early in-person satellite location or election day polling place.  I realize that Oregonians can just mail their ballot in, but data from the past has shown that as many as 25% of the voters choose to drop off their ballots.  The kind of discrepancy shown above is a point of concern.

Oregon will need to think long and hard about this one, and the legislature may need to pony up resources allowing Steve and Secretary Brown to install many more drop boxes around the state and may need to mandate some number of drop boxes based on population size and geography.