It’s one of those potentially awkward moments.
You run into someone whose name you can’t remember. Or you’re straining to make small talk in a coffee shop. Maybe you’re waiting in line somewhere and you just feel awkward.
We feel your pain. We’re here for you. Here’s your conversation starter: “Have you voted yet?”
If the answer is “yes,” congratulate the person for doing his or her civic duty. Voting is the foundation of democracy, for which millions of people in America and around the globe have given their lives.
Across the earth, billions more hunger for that right to vote — the right to choose their leaders and their representative; the right to praise or criticize their public officials without fear of imprisonment.
Heavy stuff, when you think about it. So not voting amounts to being derelict in one’s civic duty.
Back to the question, “Have you voted?” If the person’s answer is “no,” do not judge. The person is not alone. As of Monday afternoon, ballots had been received from fewer than 19 percent of Oregon voters.
Voters east of the Cascades led the way, with 47 percent in Grant County, nearly 40 percent in Wheeler County and 36 percent in Sherman County.
Clatsop County voters are lagging, with only 26 percent of their ballots returned by Monday.
At the low end: Washington County, with barely 14 percent.
Those totals will rise today. Ballots mailed last week will arrive at county elections offices around the state. Thousands more voters will celebrate Election Day by dropping off their ballots in person. Some traditionalists will use the voting booths at their county elections office.
Still, the potential turnout looks dismal. On the other hand, that means every submitted vote will have greater influence. The not-yet-voted could decide the election, whether by their participation or their abstinence.
Oregon counts ballots as long as they are turned in by 8 p.m. at any official drop site or county elections office, or if you’re in line to drop them off.
That’s right — anywhere in Oregon counts. You may use a drop site in the county where you work or go to school, if that’s more convenient than the county where you live. It will just take longer for your ballot to join the unofficial election results.
If you’ve misplaced your ballot, you have until 8 p.m. today to get a new one at your home county elections office and vote.
Feel free to remind the not-yet-voted that today’s election is the first step in choosing Oregon’s next governor, legislators and a scad of other officeholders, including three seats on the Clatsop County Board of Commissioners. Some statewide offices, such as state labor commissioner and Supreme Court justice, likely will be decided today. Four tax measures also are on the ballot throughout the county.
Lack of information is no reason for abstaining. The state Voters’ Pamphlet was mailed to every voting household and is online. If you can’t decide how to vote in some races, skip those and vote where you’re sure. An incomplete ballot is better than an unreturned ballot.
But you already know all this, right?
You did vote … didn’t you?