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More than 200,000 people voted in this week’s special election in Oregon’s 1st district, and none of them had to show photo identification before they cast their ballot.
As the voter ID battle rages on in states across the country, the Beaver State hardly registers within the movement, even though it’s possible for an Oregonian to vote without ever having to show a photo ID.
“For people arguing about photo IDs, they just haven’t even taken Oregon under consideration,” one GOP strategist said.
The lack of national attention on Oregon is likely a combination of political circumstances and culture as well as a general lack of knowledge about the voting system in the Pacific Northwest.
Since 2000, elections in Oregon have been conducted entirely by mail, so there is no one to check IDs at a polling place because polling places do not exist. Ballots must be received (either by mail or at a drop site) by 8 p.m. PST on Election Day.
Voters aren’t required to have a photo ID to register to vote either. They can supply the last four digits of their Social Security number and a utility bill to get added to the voter rolls at least 21 days before the next election.
Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus has been outspoken about the voter ID issue, but Oregon doesn’t appear to be a big concern, or any concern at all.
“These voter integrity initiatives are a state-by-state issue, and it’s up to any given state to determine what is best for them,” RNC Press Secretary Kirsten Kukowski told Roll Call. “In general, the RNC strives for as much transparency as possible in the process to ensure the integrity of our election process is protected.”
If Oregon were more of a battleground state, it would likely get more attention.
There’s more concern on the ground but not a lot of options for critics of the system to move forward. Nationally, Republicans appear to be focused on states where they control legislatures and governorships, which is not the case in Oregon. Anything that got through the state Legislature would likely be vetoed by a Democratic governor.
“We have lots of problems with vote-by-mail,” said Greg Leo, chief of staff at the Oregon Republican Party, citing misdelivered ballots, lack of accountability and the potential for fraud as some of the key concerns. But there isn’t an active effort to overturn the entire vote-by-mail system. State Rep. Kim Thatcher (R) introduced a bill that would install an e-verify system for voter registration to ensure only legal residents are able to vote.