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Election begins in Oregon as overseas and military voters return ballots

Ballots will be mailed to voters statewide starting on Oct. 14.

PORTLAND, Ore. — Voting is already underway in Oregon, several weeks before the Nov. 3 general election. Hundreds of military and overseas voters returned their mail-in ballots, according to election officials.

Military and overseas ballots were mailed out on Sept. 18. Once received, the ballots can be filled out and returned.

As of Wednesday, 1,498 ballots had been returned by military, overseas and absentee voters in Multnomah County.

Yamhill County reported 68 of 246 military and overseas ballots mailed out for the general election have already been returned. By comparison, only 54 ballots were cast by military and overseas voters in the primary election.

Overseas and military voters make up just a small portion of Oregon's voting population.  

More than 2 million ballots will be mailed statewide starting Oct. 14.

RELATED: Voter Guide 2020: Everything you need to know about voting in Oregon

Election officials were encouraged by the early response of military and overseas voters and downplayed any concerns about possible delays with the postal system.

“I’m very confident in the post office’s ability to get ballots to people and then get those ballots back to us after they’ve voted,” said Brian Van Bergen, Yamhill County clerk.

In August, the U.S. Postal Service warned election officials in Oregon, Washington and many other states of potential mail-in ballot delays.

RELATED: Disappearing blue mailboxes, in Oregon and across the country, are nothing new, U.S. Postal Service records show

Over the past eight weeks, KGW has been testing the postal system and tracking the mail. KGW reporter Kyle Iboshi sent letters to 20 friends, family and co-workers. The letters were sent on Monday or Tuesday mornings from the same post office in Portland. Recipients reported back when the letters arrived.

Overall, mail delivery was consistent during the eight-week test. Letters sent locally arrived within two to three days. Letters mailed out-of-town landed in Midwest and East Coast mailboxes within four to five days.

RELATED: Is mail delivery slow? We sent letters across the country for the past 5 weeks to find out

To avoid any possible delays, Multnomah County changed the recommended deadline for putting ballots in the mail from five to seven days before the election. By encouraging people to send them in earlier, it ensures ballots arrive on time, explained Tim Scott, director of Multnomah County Elections.

“We wanted to make sure that whether somebody was in Yachats or in east Multnomah County, their ballot was going to get back,” said Scott. “We’re saying, in Oregon, seven days and it will get to us.”

Oct. 27 is the last day to safely return your ballot by mail in Oregon. After that date, voters must use an official drop site.

State law requires ballots be received by county election officials by 8 pm on Nov. 3.