During these devastating wildfires, it’s even more crucial to vote — and especially to vote for candidates who take climate change seriously.
No matter your current situation, your vote and voice are important. Oregon’s vote-by-mail is great, but how will voters displaced by the fires get their ballots? Here are some tips and deadlines.
First off, first-time voters must register by Oct. 13. Ballots will begin being mailed Oct. 14, which gives evacuees a little less than a month to figure out where they want their ballots sent to. And contrary to a postcard you may have received from the Post Office, Oregon ballots are sent automatically to registered voters. You can update your voter information to a new residential address if you find somewhere to live long term. But if you are still sheltering in a temporary location, you can add a temporary mailing address for your ballot to be sent to.
But with everyone displaced, Lane County Elections Clerk Cheryl Betschart says that you can still vote in Lane County even if you are staying in an outside county, like Deschutes, where many evacuees from the McKenzie River are being sheltered. She says you can keep your residential address for Lane County while updating your mailing address to a different county.
It’s OK not to know right away as your situation may be changing rapidly. Still staying at a hotel? Put the hotel’s address as your mailing address. Staying with a relative? Enter their address. And there is no need to re-register, either, according to a press release sent by the Oregon Secretary of State’s office — just update your information later.
The press release also reminds voters that ballots cannot be forwarded through the U.S. Postal Service and can only be sent to a new address via updated voter registration.
It might not be that simple for everyone, though. And there is a good chance that among the chaos, some people might forget to update their address. If that’s the case, and you live in the Blue River area, visit the Walterville Post Office, which is holding onto mail for displaced voters from the Blue River and Vida areas. Without an updated mailing address, that is where your ballot will be delivered, Betschart says.
Betschart makes it clear that if anyone has questions about voting or where your ballot will end up they should call Lane County Elections. The office is not currently open to the public, but continues to update information on the website.
“The important thing is we want to assure them that we will do everything we can within the law to get them their ballot,” Betschart says.
The Lane County Elections office is available from 9 am to noon and 1 pm to 4 pm Monday through Friday at 541-682-4234 or LaneCounty.Gov/Elections. Visit OregonVotes.Gov/MyVote to add a temporary mailing address or to update your residential address.