Pamplin: State lawmakers hear case for election-day postmarks on ballots

Secretary of state, advocates say it would end voter confusion over when to mail them back.

This article was originally posted on Pamplin Media.

Oregon, the nation's first state to conduct all elections by mail, would join the ranks of other states to accept ballots postmarked by election day under legislation heard Thursday, Feb. 11.

House bills 2226 and 2687, heard by the House Rules Committee, are nearly identical, except that HB 2226 by Rep. Marty Wilde, D-Eugene, would allow third-party collection of ballots only on election day itself.

Oregon now requires mail ballots to be in the hands of county elections officials by 8 p.m. election day. Postmarks do not count, unlike the practice in Washington, California, Nevada, 11 other states and Washington, D.C., according to a 2020 report by the National Conference of State Legislatures. Four other states require a postmark the day before the election.

Under the proposed change, county officials would have to receive postmarked ballots no later than seven days after the election. States with similar laws have differing deadlines.

A count for the Nov. 3 general election is not final, but in Oregon's 2016 and 2018 general elections, nearly half a million of the ballots ultimately counted were turned in on the final day, either by mail or drop boxes maintained by the 36 counties.