02-19-2017  8:51 am      •     

The number of people registered to vote is up – way up. Eric Sample, a spokesman for Multnomah County Elections says his office has also seen a huge up tick in the number of voters switching party affiliations.
"The big issue is the presidential primary," Sample says.
Most of those people changing parties have gone Democrat. Unaffiliated voters, Pacific Greens, Libertarians, Independents and a few Republicans have mostly switched their party affiliation to engage in the tug of war of the Democratic primary.
But there's more. Promise King, director of the Oregon League of Minority Voters, says he's never seen so many minorities registered.
"Change begins in Portland," he says.
And change begins with being well-informed about the candidates and issues. With so many different candidates — of all affiliations, colors and backgrounds — it can be difficult to know Ackerman from Adams or Branam from Bissonnette.
King says for many hardworking voters, balancing a family life and trying to pay attention to the who might best run the city, county or country requires a lot of hard work – but it's worth it.
"This is the most critical election of a long time," King said.
The numbers appear to back that up.
At the Multnomah County Elections Office, Sample says they have about 401,000 registered voters.
"That's big for a primary," he said. Numbers like that are usually reserved for the general election. In a typical presidential election year, Oregon has little, if any, say in which candidates will go for the big contest in November. But with the Clinton v. Obama battle still in full swing – despite John Edwards' endorsement of Obama and Clinton's seemingly impossible odds – Oregon's vote still counts.
The local vote is important as well. Next year, Portland will have a new mayor, two new city councilors and three new county commissioners.
Voters will have the ability to choose officials who will have a direct influence in the direction of the city and the region, says King, making it important to choose officials who have a record of supporting the rights and goals of people of color.
To get a good idea of where the candidates stand, King recommended reading endorsements of the Oregonian, the Willamette Week and The Skanner. More information about the candidates is available online at www.theskanner.com ("City Council Hopefuls Speak Up," April 17; "Candidates Record Their Views," April 24; and "The Skanner Endorsements," May 1). Previous issues can be accessed by their date online by clicking "Previous Issues."

Making the Vote
This is the first year that Oregon voting officials have had to deal with a postage increase in the middle of an election. Sample says forgetting to put the 42-cent stamp won't result in a returned ballot — the state will be picking up the tab on any ballots that have the old postage.
Some other common things to remember:
• Voters should mail their ballots by May 16 – the final date to safely have your ballot recorded – or drop off the ballot at an official drop site (see sidebar for locations). Ballots must be RECEIVED by 8 p.m. on May 20 at an official drop site. A postmark will not count.
• Make sure you sign your own ballot. If you accidentally signed someone else's or someone signed yours, just cross out the signature and sign your own. If a signature doesn't match registration documents or is missing, officials set it aside and will make an effort to contact the voter. But Sample says people often leave phone numbers off registration cards, making it difficult or impossible to correct the mistake in time for the election.
• Mark your ballots clearly. When unmarked or mismarked ballots are rejected by the machine, elections officials will make a finding on the voter's true intent. In the case of a run-off, Sample says a committee will review those ballots again.

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(Library locations are open during normal business hours, except Election Day, May 20, when all libraries will be open until 8 p.m. to receive ballots)
Central Library - 801 S.W. 10th Ave.
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All of this has played out amid a steady drip of revelations about an FBI investigation into his campaign's contacts with Russian intelligence officials. Trump says his administration is running like a "fine-tuned machine." He points to the rising stock market and the devotion of his still-loyal supporters as evidence that all is well, although his job approval rating is much lower than that for prior presidents in their first weeks in office. Stung by the unrelenting criticism coming his way, Trump dismisses much of it as "fake news" delivered by "the enemy of the people" — aka the press. Daily denunciations of the media are just one of the new White House fixtures Americans are adjusting to. Most days start (and end) with presidential tweets riffing off of whatever's on TV talk shows or teasing coming events or hurling insults at the media. At some point in the day, count on Trump to cast back to the marvels of his upset of Democrat Hillary Clinton in the November election and quite possibly overstate his margins of support. Expect more denunciations of the "dishonest" press and its "fake news." From there, things can veer in unexpected directions as Trump offers up policy pronouncements or offhand remarks that leave even White House aides struggling to interpret them. The long-standing U.S. policy of seeking a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict? Trump this past week offered this cryptic pronouncement: "I'm looking at two-state and one-state, and I like the one that both parties like. I can live with either one." His U.N. ambassador, Nikki Haley, the next day insisted, "We absolutely support a two-state solution." Trump's days are busy. Outside groups troop in for "listening sessions." Foreign leaders call or come to visit. (Or, in the case of Mexico's president, cancel out in pique over Trump's talk about the planned border wall.) After the president signed two dozen executive actions, the White House was awaiting a rush order of more of the gold-plated Cross pens that Trump prefers to the chrome-plated ones used by his predecessor. Trump hands them out as souvenirs at the signing ceremonies that he points to as evidence of his ambitious pace. "This last month has represented an unprecedented degree of action on behalf of the great citizens of our country," Trump said at a Thursday news conference. "Again, I say it. There has never been a presidency that's done so much in such a short period of time." That's all music to the ears of his followers, who sent him to Washington to upend the established order and play the role of disrupter. "I can't believe there's actually a politician doing what he says he would do," says an approving Scott Hiltgen, a 66-year-old office furniture sales broker from River Falls, Wisconsin. "That never happens." Disrupt Trump has. But there may be more sound and fury than substance to many of his early actions. Trump did select Judge Neil Gorsuch to replace the late Antonin Scalia on the Supreme Court, a nomination that has drawn strong reviews from conservatives. But the president is regrouping on immigration after federal judges blocked his order to suspend the United States' refugee program and ban visitors from seven Muslim-majority countries, which had caused chaos for travelers around the globe. Some other orders on issues such as the U.S.-Mexico border wall and former President Barack Obama's health care law are of limited effect. Trump says his early actions show he means to deliver on the promises he made during the campaign. 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Trump shouldn't mistake the fact that some of his supporters like his style with the fact that a lot of Republicans just want the policies he promised them. He has to deliver that." Put Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., in the camp of those more interested in substance than style. "I'm not a great fan of daily tweets," McConnell said Friday, referring to the "extra discussion" that Trump likes to engage in. But McConnell was quick to add: "What I am a fan of is what he's been actually doing." He credits Trump with assembling a conservative Cabinet and taking steps to reduce government regulation, and promised: "We like his positions and we're going to pursue them as vigorously as we can." The challenge may be to tease out exactly what Trump wants in the way of a health care plan, tax changes and trade policy. 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