King County Washington just did an experiment around pre-paid postage in their February special election. It showed a big increase in participation. In previous special elections turnout was 30% and in Maple Valley it went to 37% and in Shoreline School District it went up to 40%.
Here in Oregon when we talk to some leaders in Salem we hear about how this isn’t an issue. One Senator even took to the floor to mock the bill and say that young people are lazy.
When we knock on doors, we often hear very different stories.
We heard from Charles, a disabled veteran and first-time voter who didn’t have a stamp and couldn’t drop off his ballot in person. We wish we could knock on every disabled veteran’s door, but we can’t. We know there are many people like Charles whose voices are going unheard who served and protected our right to vote.
For folks currently serving, it’s even worse. Oregon was ranked the 5th worst state for military overseas ballot access and shows that 74% of ballots for this group of people goes unreturned. If you’re in a non-combat zone in the military, you’re required to put a stamp on your ballot.
We heard from first-time parents Bobby and Jenna from Albany who submitted their ballots without postage and got them back because of insufficient funds. This issue impacts first time parents.
There are countless other stories like these.
We also know this impacts rural Oregonians. A former chair of the Republican Party even said this was an issue that impacted rural Republican Oregonians. He said they have to drive 50, 60, 70 miles to drop off their ballot.
We have heard from disability rights advocates that talk about the barriers people with visual disabilities face because they are required to provide additional postage on their ballot if it’s a heavier ballot.
We heard from new first-time voters who didn’t yet know how to vote, but deeply cared about the elections and the outcomes. We even did polling and found out that 42% of new registrants under Oregon Motor Voter do not have a postage stamp, but many feel that it is their civic duty to vote and understand the importance of elections.
We have heard from working Oregonians who often work multiple jobs and don’t have the privilege to take off during the day to get a book of stamps.
So, when people take to the floor to mock barriers to access or talk about how lazy people are for not finding a stamp, we want them to hear these stories.
We believe the people of Oregon should be free from barriers to the ballot box. We believe Oregonians care about the future of our state and should be allowed the opportunity to cast their ballot and ensure their voice matters regardless of whether they live in rural Oregon, are stationed in North Carolina, have a visual disability, are a disabled veteran, or are a first-time parent or a first-time voter. The voice of every Oregonian matters. And here at the Bus, that’s why we fight.