Mail-In Vote Presents Challenges in Oregon Oregon is the only state that votes entirely by mail, which means Election Day lasts about two and a half weeks. Votes must be in for the Democratic presidential primary by May 20.
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Mail-In Vote Presents Challenges in Oregon

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Mail-In Vote Presents Challenges in Oregon

Mail-In Vote Presents Challenges in Oregon

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LIANE HANSEN, host:

In the United States, there are just a handful of primaries left. One of them is in Oregon. Voters go to the polls there in May 20. No, wait a minute, they don't. there are no polling places in Oregon. It's the only state that votes entirely by mail, which means Election Day lasts about two and a half weeks. And that's presented some special challenges for the campaigns of Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton.

NPR's Ina Jaffe has more.

INA JAFFE: Even for Barack Obama, hope only goes so far. Though he's been consistently leading in the polls in Oregon, he reminded supporters in the city Albany yesterday that there was action they needed to take and sooner was better than later.

Senator BARACK OBAMA (Democrat, Illinois, Presidential Candidate): I hope everybody's already voted. If you haven't, go vote right now, and I hope you vote for me because I'm looking forward to being president of the United States of America. Thank you very much, everybody.

(Soundbite of applause)

JAFFE: At Hillary Clinton's headquarters in Portland, volunteers like Sonya Hanchar were also trying to seal the deal.

Ms. SONYA HANCHAR (Volunteer, Hillary Clinton): Oh, wonderful. Have you already mailed in your ballots? Excellent. Well, please make sure it's in by May 20, and thank you so much for your support.

JAFFE: It's generally illegal to follow a voter into the voting booth, but Clinton's Oregon campaign director, Clay Haynes, says in Oregon you sort of can.

Mr. CLAY HAYNES (Campaign Director, Oregon, Hillary Clinton): All of these volunteers that you see around us, whenever they're talking to these voters on the phone, many of them are, you know, sometimes sitting down to make the decision right there at their kitchen table.

JAFFE: And if they don't want to rely on the post office to get them in on time, there are special drop boxes around the state. And for those who need a little more pizzazz in their voting, today they can attend a BYOB party with former President Bill Clinton. That's bring your own ballot, of course.

Haynes says the parties are conveniently located...

Mr. HAYNES: Around county courthouses and other locations that already have those official ballot collection sites. And we encourage individuals who haven't already mailed the ballot back in to go ahead and bring those with them, go ahead and deposit those right there and get to see the president all at the same time.

JAFFE: In Oregon, the get-out-the-vote process is extended over a couple of weeks, rather than a couple of days, says Nick Shapiro, the communications director for Barack Obama's Oregon campaign. On the one hand it's more work, but he says, there are also built-in advantages.

Mr. NICK SHAPIRO (Communications Director, Barack Obama Oregon Campaign): The Secretary of State's office makes available to the campaigns not who you voted for, of course, but who has voted. So that way, we don't have to spend resources or time going to someone who's already sent in a ballot.

JAFFE: For campaigns, that's even better than being able to offer a voter a T-shirt or a yard sign, says Jim Moore, political science professor at Pacific University.

Professor JIM MOORE (Pacific University): They say, basically, the robocalls will stop if we see your name on the vote list. And that's a real appeal to some people.

JAFFE: In fact when Oregon Governor Ted Kulongoski was running, he had campaign signs that said, turn in your vote. Don't make me call you.

Oregonians are used to this setup. They've been voting by mail in some elections for 30 years, says Moore, and in all elections since 2000. But it's required some fundamental breaks with the way most Americans think elections should be conducted.

Mr. MOORE: We got rid of that big reform in the late 1800s that guaranteed secrecy in the voting booth. And we got rid of that idea that no one can come between you and directly placing your ballot in the box - a sealed locked box.

JAFFE: Yes, the ballot here is like any other piece of mail: You can give it to someone else to drop off, says Moore, even one of the campaigns.

Mr. MOORE: What happens if the Democrat comes by, picks up your ballots, and knows you're a Republican and doesn't turn them in? So, there's that caution out there but there's also that idea that it's the community. And, yeah, I'll get your ballot in. I'll turn it in when I go down by the box.

JAFFE: And pay the gas bill, RSVP to my cousin's wedding and determine the future of the country - all in one easy trip.

Ina Jaffe, NPR News, Portland Oregon.

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