Where We Live: Securing Oregon’s elections


Oregonians approved the vote-by-mail system in 1998

Richard Botteri holds up the first secret ballot ever prepared in Oregon. February 2020 (KOIN)

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Primaries and caucuses are underway in this presidential election year, and there are concerns about election security as new technology enters the equation. However, Oregon’s system is more secure than most.

Attorney Richard Botteri studies elections. He has represented political parties and candidates, monitoring election integrity. He said Oregon’s system of paper ballots, and vote-by-mail is the best defense against corruption.

Botteri said Iowa’s problems with the new voting app showed that electronic voting systems are inherently insecure.

“People are continually—corrupt people with bad motives—are continually figuring out how to pierce through security,” said Botteri.

In Oregon, potential tampering is less of a concern since Oregonians approved vote-by-mail in 1998.

“You can’t hack a piece of paper,” said Botteri.

Oregon’s Election Security

Election officials control the ballot from the time you seal it and mail, or drop it in a ballot box, to when the votes are counted, with political parties observing the process. Vote-by-mail also increases turnout since voters don’t deal with long lines or the need to find a polling place. The advantages, especially security, are why Oregon Senator Ron Wyden believes this nation should adopt Oregon’s system.

A voter drops off a ballot in Multnomah County. (KOIN File)

“If Senator Wyden is successful, that will have a substantially positive impact on voting in the United States,” said Botteri. “I think the most important thing is for people to understand that when they have the ballot in their hands, they have power.”

A power that should not be given to anyone else. The other states that use the vote-by-mail system exclusively are Washington and Colorado. There are a few more states who use it on a more limited basis.

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