Editor's Note: This story is a part of the 2020 Elections Issue. The Baro has put together this issue to inform Oregon State University and the greater Corvallis, Ore. community about the 2020 Elections. This issue will dispel voting myths and include information on local elections, voting methods and tips, candidate profiles and more.
College students and other community members who are not living at their home address need to request absentee ballots in order to vote in the upcoming election.
Andrea Chiapella, legislative and communications director for the Oregon Secretary of State, said via email absentee ballots are for voters who will be away from their home address during an election. This can be for various reasons, she said, including being a college student away from home, being on vacation during an election or being displaced by wildfires.
“Absentee ballot request forms can be found on our website,” Chiapella said. “It has instructions on the form [which] needs to be returned to the local county election office, but you can call the numbers on the form for further assistance as well.”
There are no specific deadlines to change your address, Chiapella added, and voters can do so up until the deadline to vote, which is 8 p.m. on election day, Nov. 3.
“Once ballots are mailed out—starting Oct. 14 this year—then it is safer just to check in with the county election office,” Chiapella said.
People confused about absentee voting should access the Secretary of State website for the state or county they are requesting the absentee ballot from, said Darla Rush, Benton County election and passport manager.
“It’s very important for students to know, if they live in and are registered in Benton County and want to vote in Benton County, they do not need to request an absentee ballot,” Rush added via email.
David Bernell, associate professor in the political science program at Oregon State University, said via email every vote counts, so absentee voting is important too.
“Voting is a responsibility that citizens should take seriously and embrace,” Bernell said. “Decisions are made by people who ‘show up’. So if you don’t vote, somebody else will make decisions for you, and you might not like what they decide.”
He added that sometimes absentee voting can involve multiple steps and be confusing.
“It’s a shame this happens, but if you want to participate in our democracy, you sometimes have to do extra work to vote absentee,” Bernell said. “You might have to make some calls or search the internet to get the information you need. And when voting, be sure to read all the instructions carefully. Your ballot may not get counted if you make a mistake.”
Chiapella noted that Oregon has a great election system that allows for flexibility and access.
“We were the first in the nation to conduct elections entirely by mail over 20 years ago and it has proven to be safe, secure and convenient,” Chiapella said. “As evidenced by a record number of ballot returns in the May primary—1.3 million—our election system has removed barriers to participation such as providing free return postage. Having a vote by mail system has well-equipped us to handle elections amidst a global pandemic.”
For those confused about absentee voting, Chiapella suggests people contact the Oregon Secretary of State office or a county election office for assistance.