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Motoya Nakamura / Multnomah County

It's the third Tuesday in May in an even-numbered year, which in Oregon can only mean one thing: It's primary election day!

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By Oregon standards, this year's race is particularly consequential, as voters are choosing to fill an open governor's seat, and open labor commissioner position, and a slew of local-level offices. Two city council seats and the city auditor's office are up for grabs in Portland, while the top seat in Multnomah County politics (county chair) and law enforcement (sheriff) are also on the ballot. No matter the outcome, this primary election will set the stage for some significant changes in leadership come January 2023, when most of these politicians' terms begin.

Before we tumble into election day chaos, it's important to make a few things clear regarding this year's voting process and results.

Can I still cast a ballot?

Yes! You have until 8 pm to dunk your ballot into a Multnomah County Elections dropbox, which are thoughtfully distributed across the metro region. (Here's a map).

Can I still mail my ballot in?

Surprisingly, yes! This is the first time Multnomah County voters can still have their ballot counted if it's mailed on election day. While in the past, voters had to get their ballot in the mail a certain number of days before the election to be counted, a new law requires elections officials to count all ballots postmarked by today, May 17. To be clear: That means your ballot must be picked up by a mail carrier or dropped off in a USPS mailbox before the scheduled pickup time today—not just placed in your mailbox by midnight. To guarantee your ballot is counted, we recommend dropping your ballot into an election dropbox over a mailbox.

Who should I vote for?

That choice is up to you! If you need some suggestions, the Mercury's editorial crew put our heads together to make our own recommendations. Check out our endorsements here. If you don't trust us, no sweat! Here's Multnomah County's voter's guide.

How will I know my vote is counted?

Track your ballot using the state's handy tracking tool.

When will we know the results of today's election?

We're not sure! Due to this new law regarding mail-in ballots, there's no saying when all ballots will be counted. The new law allows mail-in ballots to be counted by elections offices up to a week after election day, as long as the ballot is postmarked May 17 or earlier. That means uncounted ballots could still be arriving—and counted—until May 24. One thing we know for sure is that we won't have a clear idea of where the races stand by the end of today, which may feel unusual for Oregon voters. But, have no fear! The Mercury will stay on top of the state and local elections updates throughout the week to make sure you get the concrete results as soon as possible.

Wait, wait, wait, does this mean the Mercury won't be doing its traditional election night liveblog coverage?

Of course not! Like always, we'll be on the ground at election night watch parties to capture the antics of candidates, rate their music choices, and describe their catering decisions in detail. We likely won't be able to capture candidates reactions to decisive election results—rather, we'll let you know how they're feeling about the vague uncertainty of the early returns.

When should I start paying attention?

The first round of election results drops at 8 pm tonight, May 17, based on all ballots received until that point. The Mercury will be posting updates from election parties on our page starting around 7:30 pm.

What does voter turnout look like so far?

The Oregon Secretary of State's office reports that just over 22 percent of all registered Oregon voters have cast their ballots as of this morning. It's not a huge surprise: Voter turnout for primary elections on years without presidential elections is historically low in comparison to other statewide elections. In 2018, 34 percent of registered Oregon voters participated in the May primary, while 2014's primary saw 36 percent. In comparison, 46 percent of all registered Oregon voters cast ballots in the 2020 primary race.

Remind me what happens after these election results are final?

At the state office level, voters are selecting party nominees for the November general election—meaning, whoever wins their party's election this round aren't done with campaigning. They will be facing other party's candidates later this year. The story's a little different in the nonpartisan local races: If no candidate receives more than 50 percent of the vote in their primary race for Portland City Council or Multnomah County Board of Commissioners, the two candidates receiving the highest number of votes in their races will head to a runoff election in the November general election.

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