June 25, 2009

Wyden, Merkley Urge Congress, Postal Service to Protect Oregon's Vote-by-Mail

Washington, D.C. - Seeking to protect Oregon's vote-by-mail elections, Oregon Senators Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley are asking Congress and the U.S. Postal Service to avoid taking steps that would damage the state's mail-in balloting.

In a letter to a Senate appropriations subcommittee, Wyden and Merkley asked that efforts to balance the Postal Service budget not include a suggestion to eliminate Tuesday mail delivery. "While we admire and encourage examination of avenues to modernize the postal service, the implementation of this proposal would pose a direct threat to democracy in Oregon," the senators wrote.

In a separate letter to Postmaster General John E. Potter, Wyden and Merkley also requested that postal rates not be raised during the month of May. Postal increases in May 2008 and May 2009 on first-class postage took place just eight days before mail ballots were due.

While acknowledging the Postal Service's financial problems, the senators expressed strong concerns that raising rates each year in the month of May could have a negative impact on Oregonians' ability to vote in state, federal and local elections. "Specifically," they wrote, "we are concerned that primary ballots could be returned for insufficient postage or that cash-strapped counties would be expected to make up the difference."

Vote by mail has been credited for the consistently high voter turnout in Oregon. Polls show more than 80 percent of Oregon voters prefer voting by mail to traditional voting. In the 2008 General Election, 85.7 percent of registered voters in Oregon cast ballots.