As a result of the coronavirus pandemic, Benton County is one of many counties in Oregon that expanded options for depositing ballots in county-managed drop sites, according to a recent survey conducted by OPB.
Benton County reported adding a drop site this year, along with Multnomah, Tillamook and Jackson counties. Two counties on the eastern side of the state, however, have reduced the number of drop sites.
Harney County will have four drop sites this year, less than the six they had in 2018, because two of the drop sites buildings, a library and a senior center, have closed to the public. Election officials in the nearby Grant County are only providing two drop sites, a stark reduction of 66% compared to the six they had in 2018. Both drop sites are located in the county seat, Canyon City.
Grant County Clerk Brenda Percy told OPB, “COVID has made it necessary to remove four boxes because two boxes were in small halls, one box was in the senior center which is closed to the public and one box was in the county library which is also closed to the public.”
Despite the reduction, the county still meets state rules for providing at least one box for every 30,000 registered voters – Grant County had 5,432 registered voters in September. A fifth of them have already turned in ballots, according to election officials.
Another concern this year has been the number of election workers processing ballots. Marion County, as a social distancing measure, will be having 55 people processing them this year, significantly lower compared to the 85 to 90 who worked the job in 2018.
Benton, Clackamas, and Josephine counties will also be reducing the number of election workers processing ballots.
However, other counties are increasing the number of election workers. Douglas County is bringing in 11 more people than it had in 2018 for the job; County Clerk Dan Loomis told OPB that this is because the participation rate is higher, and the number of registered voters has increased.”
Deschutes County has followed suit and will be adding election workers for the processing task.
The most intriguing change this year, though, may be that voters are acting quicker to turn in their ballots. As of Wednesday, Oct. 21, almost 17% of ballots had already been returned – about 4% higher than the rate was at this time in 2016.
By Cara Nixon