Five FAQs about voting in Oregon
What makes this year’s election so special for transition students?
For most students in Central Oregon’s transition programs and coops, this will be their first chance to vote in a national election. Most of our students range from 18 to 20 years old, so they were too young to vote in 2016. Every US citizen age 18 and older has the right to vote, regardless of any disability they may be experiencing.
Voting means participating in our democracy. Every person has the right to have their voice be heard. But records show that fewer than half of young voters (age 18-25) actually cast their ballots. People with disabilities tend to vote less often too, possibly because of barriers that could make voting difficult. But every person is legally entitled to the support and accommodations needed to make their ballot count.
What do transition students need to know about casting their votes this November?
Here are five FAQs and some resources to get started:
1. How do I register to vote in Oregon?
When an Oregonian gets a driver’s license, they automatically are registered to vote. However, many transition students are not yet licensed to drive, so they must register through a separate process. Registering to vote is easy, but it needs to happen at least three weeks before an election, or the vote won’t count! Be sure to register by October 13th.
Students who have a state ID card can register online through the Secretary of State website. Without an Oregon ID, students can still register by going into their County Clerk office to fill out a Voter Registration form. Be sure to bring a social security card, a paycheck stub or a bank statement that shows both name and address.
2. Where can I learn more about the issues?
This election covers national, state, and local offices, plus several state and local policy decisions—so there is a lot to know! The advocacy group Disability Rights Oregon has created an Easy Voting Guide for anyone in Oregon who wants to learn more. This guide lists all the candidates for office, and explains the ballot measures. The Easy Voting guides are available for reading online. Go to easyvotingguide.org, download the guide in PDF format, or call 888-339-VOTE (888-339-8683).
3. What if I need help filling out my ballot?
Voters with disabilities can get help filling out their ballot from a family member, a job coach, or from a county election official. These helpers cannot change or influence the vote—they simply help the voter complete their ballot. Employers or union representatives cannot help with voting.
Some voters prefer using a computer or tablet. This method lets the voter use a larger font for better viewing. This Alternative Form Ballot works on a number of common tablet platforms like iPad Safari. Instructions for this method of voting can be found online, or download the download the Alternate Format Ballot Usage Guide
For a fun practice session to learn how online ballots work, check out this demonstration ballot.
4. How do I submit my ballot?
If you filled out a paper ballot, there are two ways to submit it: by mail or at a dropbox site.
Either way, place your ballot in the secrecy envelope—the small paper sleeve that does NOT have your name or signature. Place that in the mailing envelope and be sure to sign the back of the envelope. People who use a signature stamp need to have a Signature Stamp Attestation form on file at their County Clerk office. That form can be downloaded here.
Sealed and stamped ballots should be mailed as soon as possible, and definitely before October 27th, to be sure it arrives by November 3rd. Ballots brought to a dropbox site don’t need a stamp, but do need to be signed (and remember—no one can sign another person’s ballot!) Drop box locations can be found here.
5. Who can help me with other questions or problems?
Don’t give up if your questions are not answered here! Every county in Oregon has election officials who are responsible for helping the voting process work for everyone. Contact your County Clerk to ask for help with your questions. Phone numbers and emails are available on the Oregon Secretary of State website’s Voting and Elections page, along with more information on services for voters with disabilities.
Photo courtesy of Parker Johnson on Unsplash