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MICHELLE MRUK

In the midst of… [gestures around at the general state of things as I write this blog from my living room], you’d be forgiven for forgetting that Oregon has a primary election coming up.

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But, thanks to our state’s long-established vote by mail system, an election we will have on May 19, COVID-19 be damned. This election could have meaningful consequences for local and statewide politics—so here’s a rundown of what’s at stake, and how our voting process works.

What will we be voting on?

I’m so glad you asked! The most high-profile race on the ballot is the Democratic presidential primary—but with Joe Biden as the presumptive Democratic nominee, that race is pretty anti-climactic. Other national races include primaries for three Portland-area United States Congress seats.

But a lackluster presidential primary doesn’t mean you should toss your ballot out! This election is also your chance to weigh in on a slew of statewide primaries, including the races for secretary of state, attorney general, and state treasurer. You’ll also get to vote on the primary races for your Oregon Legislature representatives—a number of which are contested this year.

But the real excitement on the May ballot comes with the local races. This primary is jam-packed with juicy decisions for Portland voters, including a mayoral race, three other Portland City Council races, two Metro Council seats, and a District Attorney contest. You’ll also get to vote on two ballot measures: Renewing a gas tax to help fix Portland city streets, and a Metro spending measure to invest in supportive services for our houseless neighbors.

Sounds great! So remind me how I vote again?

The great thing about voting as an Oregonian is that it’s easy as hell. Multnomah County ballots will be mailed out to voters on April 29, and those ballots need to be mailed back to county election officials (in a handy pre-addressed envelope) early enough that they receive them by May 19.

If you end up cutting it close, you can drop your ballot in one of the many drop boxes around town on or before the 19th. Some drop boxes have closed due to COVID-19, but you can find the ones that are still open here.

And this year, you don’t even need a stamp to mail your ballot back—thanks to a new law passed by the Oregon Legislature last year, your ballot will come with pre-paid postage on the return envelope.

What if I’m not sure about my registration?

If you aren’t sure you’re registered to vote in Oregon—or if you need to change the address or political party you’re registered with—you should update your info by April 28 at the latest. You can do so on the Oregon Secretary of State's website.

Keep in mind that Oregon has a closed primary system, meaning that only registered party voters get to vote in that party’s primary. So if you’re an unaffiliated voter, for example, but want to vote in the Democratic primary for Oregon Secretary of State (or any of the races on this list), you'll need to change your info this week and become a registered Democrat.

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Okay! So, who should I vote for?

Well, voters’ pamphlets will be mailed out this week, meaning you have an at-home project for this weekend!

Alternatively, you can just wait for the Mercury’s endorsements, coming to a computer or phone near you very soon.

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