SALEM, Ore. — Two new laws aimed at expanding voter access in Oregon are under fire from a conservative group that argues the changes will make state elections less secure.
Oregon Public Broadcasting reports people affiliated with the group Oregonians for Fair Elections have filed referendum petitions that, if successful, would ask voters to approve or reject the new laws next year. To do that, they’d need to collect 74,680 valid signatures in opposition to each bill by Sept. 24, a tight timeline that could be hard to meet as the state struggles with a resurgence of COVID-19.
The first, House Bill 2681, ensured that voters cannot be labeled “inactive” — and so ineligible to automatically receive a ballot — for the sole reason of not voting. It’s an extension of other steps Oregon has taken in recent years.
In 2017, then-Secretary of State Dennis Richardson, a Republican, announced the state would no longer label voters “inactive” if they had not voted for five consecutive years. Richardson increased that window to 10 years, and subsequently announced he wanted to end the practice of labeling voters inactive because they had not voted.
Voters can still be labeled “inactive” for other reasons, including not responding when their ballot has been challenged.
The second bill targeted for reversal, House Bill 3291, implemented a change, already in practice in other vote-by-mail states, that will allow mailed ballots to be counted if they are postmarked by Election Day and reach officials within a week of the election. Ballots in Oregon have traditionally only been accepted if they are received by 8 p.m. on Election Day.