Comparing late ballots in OR and WA

December 10, 2012

In response to our recommendation that lawmakers act on retiring Secretary of State Sam Reed's proposal to change Washington's postmark ballot deadline to Oregon's 8 p.m. election day deadline (with exceptions for military and overseas voters), some have expressed concern that doing so would reduce voter participation and disenfranchise voters.

With Washington now all vote by mail/drop box, an apples to apples comparison can be made between the two states based on the 2012 election results (Washington and Oregon are the only states that vote exclusively by mail/drop box).

On the issue of voter turnout, Oregon secured an 82.8% turnout while Washington came in just below that at 81.25%.

How about the concern about voter disenfranchisement?

Here is a comparison of the 5 largest counties in Oregon and Washington:

Unfortunately in both states, way too many ballots were received after the deadline but the five largest counties in Washington had slightly more ballots arrive late on a % basis than in Oregon based on each state's ballot deadline (statewide data not collected).

On a personal note, this is why I don't mail my ballot but instead use a drop box to avoid any chance of U.S.P.S determining my eligibility.

If Washington were to pursue the Oregon model, changing the ballot deadline would be just one of many changes needed to speed up election results reporting. Equipment improvements and permission to begin tabulating ballots early would also be necessary (as proposed by Reed), but actually having all the ballots on hand on Election Day (exceptions for military and overseas) would help define the universe on Election Day.

When it comes to increasing voter participation, reducing disenfranchisement, and complying with any election deadline, the key is voter education.

Additional Information
Newspapers call for election reform
Sam Reed forecasts what to expect on Election Night