PORTLAND, Ore. — Oregonians and Washingtonians should both start to see voters’ pamphlets and ballots arrive in the mail in just a couple weeks, leading up to the 2022 General Election on Nov. 8.
But there's another critically important date that Oregon residents in particular need to be aware of if they want a November election ballot to show up in their mailbox: Oct. 18 is the deadline to register to vote in Oregon.
Oregon is known for several laws aimed at making voting easier, including its all-mail ballot system and automatic voter registration at the DMV. But the state does not allow same-day voter registration, an omission that stems from a specific event in Oregon’s history.
Would-be Oregon voters must register at least 21 days ahead of time in order to be able to vote in a given election. The upcoming election is Nov. 8, which means the registration cutoff is 11:59 p.m. on Oct. 18.
Washington's system is more flexible, allowing voter registration at any time up to 8 p.m. on Election Day, although residents do face an earlier deadline of Oct. 31 if they're registering online or by mail.
How to register in Oregon
Aside from the pesky early deadline, the actual process of registering to vote in Oregon is quick and easy, and can usually be done entirely online through the Oregon Secretary of State's website.
To be eligible, you must be a U.S. citizen, an Oregon resident and at least 16 years old. Registered minors won't start receiving ballots until the first election after they turn 18, although if your 18th birthday is right before an election — on Nov. 7, for example — you'll still get a ballot in advance.
When you click the link on the website to begin the registration process, you'll be asked to fill out your name, date of birth and Oregon DMV number, which is the main ID number on your Oregon driver license, permit or state ID card. You'll also need to enter the address where you'll receive your ballot.
If you do not have a state driver license or ID, you can still start the registration process online, but you'll need to complete it in-person. The system will generate a filled-out voter registration form that you will need to print, sign and take to a county elections office.
If you prefer to not use the online system at all, you can also print out a blank voter registration form to fill out and deliver, or obtain a blank form at your county elections office. Blank forms are also often available at libraries and post offices, although the filled-out forms must still be turned in at a county elections office.
How to register in Washington
Registration in Washington is similar to Oregon, and can also be done online through the state's VoteWA system. You must be a U.S. citizen, a Washington resident and at least 18 years old to be eligible, and you can pre-register if you're 16 or 17.
Like in Oregon, you'll be asked to fill out your name, date of birth and the number from your Washington driver license, learner's permit or state ID card to register online, plus your residential address and the address where your ballot should be mailed, if it's different.
You can also register using a paper form. You can download and print one from the Washington Secretary of State's website or request that one be mailed to you. Completed forms can be submitted in-person at county elections offices or mailed to your county elections office.
Unlike Oregon, Washington has same-day registration, meaning you can technically register all the way up to 8 p.m. on Election Day and still receive a ballot.
There's an important caveat, however: Online and mail-in registrations must be received eight days before Election Day to count, in this case by Oct. 31. After that, registration can only be done in-person at county election offices if you want it to be active in time to vote on Nov. 8.
How to check your status
If you're not sure if you're registered, or if you want to double-check your registration status, you can do that online too through the My Vote tool for Oregon or the VoteWA tool for Washington.
In either system, all you need to enter is your first and last name and date of birth, and the system will immediately tell you whether you’re registered as an active voter and the address on file where your next ballot will be mailed.
The Oregon system will also tell you your current registered party affiliation, but the Washington system will not, due to the fact that Washington state has open primary elections in which voters of all parties receive the same ballot.
If you need to change your registration, such as to update your mailing address or (in Oregon) change your party affiliation, both systems include a link to make updates under your search results.
Just make sure to file and updates online no later than Oct. 18 if you're in Oregon or Oct. 31 if you're in Washington to make sure the changes to take effect in time.
When to look for your ballot
Ballots will start being mailed to voters with Oregon addresses on Oct. 19 (military and out-of-state addresses are sent out sooner), and the last of them will be mailed by Oct. 25. Absentee ballots will be mailed out by Nov. 3 at the latest.
Oct. 19 is also the deadline for the state to mail copies of the state voters’ pamphlet, so most voters should receive a copy soon after if they don’t already have one. The deadline to distribute county voters’ pamphlets is Oct. 25.
Ballots will start being mailed to Washington voters no later than 18 days before the election, in this case Oct. 21. Voters' pamphlets will also be mailed to all Washington households, according to the Secretary of State's website.
Once you have your ballot, you can fill it out and submit it at any time either by mailing it back in or dropping it off at one of your state's ballot drop boxes. Oregon has a list of ballot drop box sites here, and Washington has one here.
You can track the status of your ballot – both while it’s on its way to you and once you’ve submitted it – through My Vote and VoteWA.
November 8: Election Day
Voters in both Oregon and Washington must submit their filled-out ballots to a drop box in their respective state by 8 p.m. on Election Day or get them mailed and postmarked by 8 p.m. for them to be counted.
Oregon mail-in ballots previously didn’t count unless received on or before Election Day, but Oregon passed a law last year that allows ballots to be counted even if they’re received up to seven days later – but only if they’re mailed AND postmarked by 8 p.m. on Election Day.
Newly dropped-off mail does not get postmarked until it has been picked up and processed, so it you’ve waited until the last minute, it’s probably safer to find your nearest ballot drop box before 8 p.m. to make sure your ballot gets counted.
A Washington FAQ page encourages voters to be mindful of mailbox collection times if they're dropping their ballot off in the mail any time within a week of Election Day.