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.
24 Hour DROP SITES
A-BOY SUPPLY, 7365 SW Barbur Boulevard
GOODWILL STORE, 3134 North Lombard Street
GRESHAM BRANCH LIBRARY, 385 NW Miller Avenue, Gresham
MCDONALD'S RESTAURANT, West side of NE 40th Avenue
between NE Tillamook and NE Hancock
MIDLAND BRANCH LIBRARY, 805 SE 122nd Avenue
MULTNOMAH COUNTY ELECTIONS, 1040 SE Morrison Street
PIONEER COURTHOUSE SQUARE, 700 block of SW Broadway
LIBRARY LOCATION DROP SITES
(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.
Gresham - 385 N.W. Miller St., Gresham
Hollywood - 4040 N.E. Tillamook St.
Midland - 805 SE 122nd Ave.
Hillsdale Library - 1525 SW Sunset Blvd.
Albina - 3605 N.E. 15th Ave.
Belmont - 1038 S.E. 39th Ave.
Capitol Hill - 10723 S.W. Capitol Highway
Fairview-Columbia - 1520 NE Village St., Fairview
Gregory Heights - 7921 N.E. Sandy Blvd.
Holgate - 7905 S.E. Holgate Blvd.
North Portland - 512 N. Killingsworth St.
Northwest - 2300 NW Thurman St.
Rockwood - 17917 S.E. Stark St
St. Johns - 7510 N. Charleston Ave.
Sellwood-Moreland - 7860 SE 13th Ave.
Woodstock - 6008 S.E. 49th Ave.