Elections Covid-19

Volunteer ballot box courier Wayne Schade locks up a ballot box after emptying it outside City Hall in Coos Bay.

COQUILLE — Voter turnout is "looking excellent" after the first week of ballot collection, according to Coos County Clerk Debbie Heller.

By Thursday, nearly 30% of eligible voters had returned their ballots — far exceeding previous years. By the same time in 2016, only 14.02% of voters had turned in their ballots.

The high turnout is part of a nationwide trend: Officials around the country are reporting record-high levels of early turnout as the presidential election heats up and mail-in voting security receives heightened attention during the COVID-19 pandemic.

In Coos County, about 70% of voters so far have returned their ballots through the mail. The county saw a surge in mailed ballots on Thursday, the data show.

Heller said that county elections staff is busy with the high volume of ballots, but has been able to get them scanned in and signature-verified on time like usual.

Turnout has been similar in Curry County: Over a third of ballots had been returned by Wednesday, according to county data. Statewide, over 730,000 people have voted, more than a quarter of the state's registered voters.

Voters should mail ballots soon

Election Day is Nov. 3, and the U.S. Postal Service recommends voters mail their ballots by Oct. 27 to ensure they arrive on time. In Oregon, ballots include free postage, but postmarks do not count for meeting the deadline.

There are also seven drop sites throughout the county, which accept ballots through 8 p.m. on Election Day. County employees, who swear an oath to protect the integrity of the vote, collect ballots from the following sites:

  • Bandon City Hall, 555 U.S. Highway 101. Office open 7:30 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Thursday. Closed Fridays. Open 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Election Day.
  • Coos Bay City Hall, 500 Central Avenue. Drive-up collection box is ADA accessible and open 24 hours a day through Election Day.
  • Coquille Courthouse, 250 North Baxter Street. Walk-up collection box is ADA accessible and open 24 hours a day through Election Day.
  • Lakeside City Hall, 915 North Lake Road. Building mail slot is ADA accessible and open 24 hours a day through Election Day.
  • Myrtle Point City Hall, 424 Fifth Street. Office open 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday. Open 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Election Day.
  • North Bend Fire Department, 1880 McPherson Avenue. Office open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., seven days a week.
  • Powers Market, 409 Second Avenue. Open 8 a.m. to 7 p.m., seven days a week. Open 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Election Day.

In Reedsport, ballots can be returned by mail, or to the Douglas County Annex at 680 Fir Avenue. That drive-thru drop box is open 24 hours a day through Election Day.

Most voters should have received their ballots over the weekend or early this week. Anyone who hasn't received a ballot can call the elections office at 541-396-7610 to check on its status.

Unsigned ballots and those with signatures that don't match a voter's registration will take longer to process. Voters can see if their ballots have been mailed, or if they've successfully been returned to the county online at www.oregonvotes.gov/myvote.

Reporter Zack Demars can be reached at worldnews3@countrymedia.net.

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